National | Investitures

An award for a vicar - and his love for his community

The Reverend Tom Poata of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu, has been made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Poata, who serves as the Anglican minister of St Faith’s church at Ōhinemutu, Rotorua, has been recognised for his services to the community and Māori.

“I am blown away with my people. This award belongs to them, it was because of them that I received this award, so I give so many thanks to them. But, most importantly, this insignia belongs to my elders, my family and my ancestors, not just for me,” Poata says.

Poata works for many groups including Waikato Hospital, the Returned Services Association, the Anglican Church and the people of Te Arawa.

But he says the world is changing and so are people’s opinions on religions.

“The world is changing, that is one thing I’ve noticed travelling around different churches of the Christian faith. The wairua Māori has grown in the community, which is good, but I’ve seen that the religious aspect has slowly dwindled.”

Today saw five Māori receive King’s Honours in a week of investiture ceremonies in Auckland. Poata felt humbled to be among them.

“I was humbled. I was humbled because there were so many people, my elders and ancestors who did and have done these works for a long time, in marae, in Māori communities before they moved to the bigger cities, they were there doing the same thing.”

Along with the five recipients of today, this week saw many other Māori celebrated for their services to the community, their culture and their mahi.

Among those celebrated were:

Qiane Matata Sipu for her services to the arts

(Founder of Qiane+co, working with diverse organisations as a writer, editor, and advocate. Also the founder of NUKU, a social impact enterprise using multi-media to celebrate indigenous women.)

Opie Bosson for his services to thoroughbred racing

(The leading New Zealand jockey, with 128 current season wins, nationally and internationally crowned jockey with 91 Group 1 races in cups including Karaka Million, Auckland Cup, Australian Caufield Cup, Australian Derby, Singapore Derby and the Singapore Gold Cup.)

Peter Walters for his services to touch rugby

(Player and coach who developed touch rugby all across New Zealand and internationally in over 31 countries around the world. Founder of the largest Touch Rugby club in the world, Galaxy Touch Club, which has amassed 120 teams in 14 countries. The most capped touch rugby player, representing New Zealand in nine World Cups with three wins.)

Kaa and Tawhiri Williams for their services to Māori and education

(Founders of the full immersion learning institution Te Wānanga Takiura o ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori o Aotearoa in 2000 and have continued to see the numbers in their one-year full immersion class increase the number of reo māori teachers.)

Helen Rawiri for services to Māori language education

(Trained as a primary school teacher and helped establish the first bilingual/total immersion school in Papakura, Te Maunga Kura.)

Cheryl Smith for services to rugby

(Community Connector for sport in Northland. Represented New Zealand as a Black Fern in the winning sides at the 1998 and 2002 Women’s Rugby World Cup’s.)