Alongside an All Black and an internationally renowned actor, the work of a Hawke's Bay woman in getting 35,000 people off their feet was recognised at the inaugural Matariki Awards last night.
Held at Auckland's War Memorial Museum, the awards celebrated and honoured extraordinary Maori talent and achievement across a broad range of fields and industries, and were organised by Maori Television in partnership with Te Puni Kokiri.
The talent of Hawke's Bay's own was honoured, with IronMaori receiving the Te Tupu-a-Rangi Award for Health and Science.
Heather Te Au-Skipworth and Missy Mackay created the first IronMaori half ironman race in 2009 as a way to tackle obesity and promote healthier lifestyles among Maori.
It quickly surged in popularity and the IronMaori brand expanded rapidly. It now encompasses the quarter ironman race, as well as IronMaori Tamariki-Rangatahi event for youngsters and the major half ironman race - a 2km swim, 90km cycle and 21.1km run.
IronMaori also flourished outside Hawke's Bay with a duathlon in Wairarapa, half ironman in Taranaki and IronMaori Whakatu Nelson. In 2013, there was an IronMaori Gold Coast event and this year Tamaki Makaurau had its turn.
During the past seven years, more than 35,000 people have taken part in IronMaori events, leading more than a thousand of those through to Ironman New Zealand.
Judges said the competition had an overwhelmingly positive impact on Maori health.
Also honoured at the awards was actor Cliff Curtis, who received the Te Tohu Tiketike o Matariki Supreme Award for his outstanding commitment to Aotearoa and kaupapa Maori. He also won the Te Waipuna-a-Rangi Award for Arts and Entertainment.
Young All Blacks sensation Nehe Milner-Skudder claimed Te Waita Award for Sport. Last year, the 25-year-old was chosen as the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year and helped New Zealand retain the Rugby World Cup.
Television presenter Scotty Morrison gained Te Waiti Award for Te Reo and Tikanga. Along with work in Mori broadcasting, Morrison launched his second te reo book last year, Maori Made Easy. Convenor of judges and Maori Television chief executive Paora Maxwell said the calibre of this year's winners was inspiring to behold.