A humble man who I consider to be a man of great passion for mentoring and teaching his first language of te reo Māori, our tikanga and the history of Māoridom, Kukupa Tirikatene was born at Ratana Pā, Whanganui.

He was raised in Wairoa by his grandmother and they lived in a shed with a dirt floor. He is of Ngāi Tahu descent, and has been appointed an officer of the NZ Order of Merit for services to Māori and education. He is a founding member and kaumātua for Ngāi Tahu Whānui ki Tāmaki Makaurau and a cultural advisor to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

Kukupa says being recognised for his services is something special but he has always put his head down and got on with things. For close to 40 years and since 2009 he has been responsible for Māori leadership at Manukau Institute of Technology.

On 7 February, Kāi/Ngāi Tahu whānui ki Tāmaki Makaurau during our whānau day, presented him with a tewhatoko, which was carved by Ngāi Tahu carver, John Peneamena. Kukupa’s wife, Heather Tirikatene was also presented with a bouquet of flowers.

Kukupa is one of our inspirational Ngāi Tahu leaders and in Auckland we are very proud to be connected with him, and privileged to have him associated with us. We would like to take this opportunity to say thanks for all of the help and support that he has given us over the years, and congratulations on being honoured by the Queen.

Kukupa and Heather Tirikatene.

Kukupa and Heather Tirikatene.