Living legends honoured at the dawn of a Maori new year

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Two Hastings women aged 93 and 102 are among seven people to have been presented with awards designating them "Living Treasures".

Tangiora Akuhata, 102, and Tata Wairukuruku Maere, 93, both won the Maui Award for strength and courage at the inaugural Matariki Living Taonga Awards, presented at a gala dinner at the Hawke's Bay Opera House Assembly Hall on Saturday.

About 350 people attended the dinner to celebrate the achievements of the 14 finalists, who were selected from 50 nominations for the awards.

Other winners were environmentalist Jenny Mauger (the Papatuanuku award); businessman Paul Harris (the Pou Kaimahi employer award ); 80-year-old community volunteer Hemi Panapa (the Ringahora award for selfless service); master carver Takaputai Mete Walker (the Whakamanawa award for creativity); and Kotuku Tomoana (the Matariki award for Te Reo).

Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga held the awards to mark Matariki, the Maori New Year and to celebrate the lives and achievements of people in the Hastings area.

Taiwhenua chief executive Alayna Watene said the awards aimed to "celebrate tradition, language, spirit and people" in conjunction with Matariki.

It was important to acknowledge role models in all walks of life, she said.

"We owe it to future generations to start showing leadership and share our stories with ourselves, first and foremost."

The gala dinner was an opportunity to celebrate each Living Taonga's "own personal journey" and Matariki was the obvious time of year to do it.

"Matariki is a season of celebration in which we prepare for the coming of a new year," Mrs Watene said.

"It is a time to give thanks to Papatuanuku [mother earth] for her gifts and a time to petition for prosperity and wellbeing."

Matariki was a season of new beginnings, a season of change and of action, "a time to celebrate whakapapa, a time to learn of our ancestors, and a reminder of our uniqueness in this world".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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