National | Governor General Dame Cindy Kiro

Two very different wāhine with a passion for excellence

It was Investiture Day at Government House in Auckland yesterday, where 183 New Zealanders received their New Year's honours from Governor General Dame Cindy Kiro.

Among them were Jane Te Hira of Ngāpuhi and Rukumoana Schaafhausen of Ngāti Haua - two wāhine with very different talents but a common commitment to strive for excellence.

Jane Te Hira is the only wahine to represent Aotearoa in three sporting codes.

Te Hira's daughter, Tui Tait, says, "Mum represented New Zealand in three sports, basketball, softball and hockey. When we were young we were taken from one field to the next to the courts. She has, I think within her family, they probably have the genes."

Passion for sport

Now 93, Te Hira was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, long-awaited recognition for a wahine who overcame many obstacles in the 50s to achieve success as a player in basketball, softball and hockey and coach of rugby, and it's probably no surprise this passion for sports runs in the family.

"We’re happy for her ... we’re proud of Mum and she is excited that she got her medal."

"Her brother, Henry Maxwell was a Kiwi and her sister Sylvia represented Australia in basketball and athletics and then her grandchildren all play. My son Lindsay Tait represented the Tall Blacks for 13 years, so the young ones coming through, they’re all involved in sports in some shape or form."

Rukumoana Schaafhausen

Inspired by her tūpuna, Rukumoana Schaafhausen has dedicated her life to making a difference for those beyond herself.

"The Governor-General mentioned today that it recognises individual contribution and that's wonderful, but for me, it's not an individual and I don't receive this for myself personally," Schaffhausen says. "Instead, I receive it on behalf of all of those who have contributed to shaping my life, who have been part of the teams that I've been involved with, and my tūpuna - really I just get the privilege to serve their legacy."

A new member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, she’s worked as chair of various boards including Te Tari o Te Kīngitanga, Ngāti Haua iwi, Te Waharoa Investments, Miro Ltd and the Waters Governance Board, Schaafhausen says her perseverance and strength comes from her whānau.

"My husband, I must give full credit to him, Samoan and he knew, when he married me, he married the tribe. And I don't think he understood the extent of that but he has stood by me through the 27 years for Waikato-Tainui and governance roles there and it will continue."

"There were many times in this journey where you want to give up, actually where it gets hard, where the pressure is on, but it's your whānau that say 'no, come on. It's alright. Get over it because the purpose is so much bigger than ourselves. So actually the credit goes particularly to my whānau, my parents because I probably would have given up a long time ago."