Timoti Karetu named Knight of the New Zealand Order of Merit

Photo / E Tū Kahikatea Series

A career spanning decades has seen Professor Timoti Samuel Karetu (Tuhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu) devote much of his life to the revitalisation, retention and integrity of te reo Māori.

In recognition of his commitment Dr Karetu will receive a Knighthood of the New Zealand Order of Merit in this year’s Queens Birthday Honors for services to the Māori language.

In 1993 he received a New Year’s Honor and was made a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order for services to the Māori language.

Dr Karetu has a long and rich history in linguistics and holds a degree in both French and German.

He was also a key instigator in the formation of Te Panekiretanga o te Reo, the Institute of Excellence in Māori established in 2003.

The Institute provides the most advanced Māori language academic course for adult students across New Zealand.

He has also taught students at a secondary and tertiary level which included Taumarunui High School, Fairfield College and Waikato University.

Dr Karetu has served as Māori Language Commissioner and Executive Director of Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust until 2003 and he still serves as Chairman of the Trust.

He has made major contributions at a national and international level participating at symposiums delivering presentations and papers on indigenous language revival and retention.

In 2015 he delivered a "State of Te Reo Māori" speech where he disputed statistics showing Māori language speakers were dwindling.

Dr Karetu has also been involved with the National Film Archive and has served on Boards of Te Waka Toi, Toi Māori and the National Library as well as Chairperson of Aotearoa Traditional Māori Performing Arts Festival Committee and Te Māngai Pāho.

In 1967 Barbara Ewing penned an article outlining Professor Karetu’s linguistic knowledge and impressive skill in his role as the Information Officer for the New Zealand High Commission in London, England. 

The article which is located online at the National Library of New Zealand reads;

“Timoti Samuel Karetu is an extremely valuable member of the staff of the New Zealand High Commission, but he is also an invaluable member of the Maori population. He travels and is at home all over Europe and he could spend the rest of his life this way—but his Maoritanga has a strong hold on him and his roots have not yet left his Tuhoe childhood, and here on the other side of the world his spirit seems often to reach out to his homeland. He doesn't always admit this himself, but it is obvious to those who know him well—who can only hope that the call of his heritage will one day be strong enough for him to pack up his bags and his life in England, and return to his people."

The full article can be located by clicking this link.

'E Tū Kahikatea' a documentary series produced by Ngahuia Wade and Maramena Roderick took an in-depth look at Dr Karetu's life and achievements.


This year Dr Karetu celebrated his 80th birthday In Hastings where he was surrounded by friends and whānau and many of his students who hold true to his teachings and value of te reo Māori.