Sir Hekenukumai Busby "humbled" at knighthood

By Raniera Harrison

The man widely credited with the revitalisation of traditional Maori voyaging methodologies has been appointed a Knight Companion of the Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Sir Hekenukumai Pūhipi Busby, ONZM, MBE, 85, was today surrounded by family celebrating the announcement of his appointment to the special position.

"I've never been adept at speaking.  I prefer to let my actions do all of the talking" says Busby, speaking from his home at Aurere, northeast of Kaitāia.

Busby said that after receiving official confirmation of the honour from both Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Busby immediately thought of his late wife, Hilda Busby- herself a staunch advocate for Māori initiatives.

"It's been 22 years since she passed away, and when the letter arrived - memories of her came back to me" he says.

In the early 1990s, the former bridge engineer built the waka hourua Te Aurere.  It has sailed more than 30,000 nautical miles, visiting Hawaii, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, New Caledonia and Norfolk Island, as well as making three circumnavigations of the North Island since 1992.

Busby's reputation soon spread across the oceans, and he became revered as a knowledgeable source of traditional seafaring voyaging techniques.  Widely acknowledged as revitalising Māori nautical practice.

He says he has been hugely supported by a number of Māori leaders through the years.  Traditions which he passes on through his school of learning, Te Wānanga a Kupe Mai Tawhiti, which was opened in 2013, to revive ancient boat building practices.

"To teach future generations the wealth of knowledge contained at sea. To allow them to us the Sun and the stars to guide them on the ocean".

He says he will attend the official investiture ceremony, in due course.