Kaumatua a reluctant honoree

By Mikaela Collins

1 comment
Kevin Prime has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to conservation and Maori - but he had nearly turned down the honour.
Kevin Prime has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to conservation and Maori - but he had nearly turned down the honour.

Northlander Kevin Prime was "adamant" he was not going to accept his Queen's Birthday Honour but after Ngati Hine MPs, whanau and extended whanau told him it was "for the iwi", he said yes.

The Motatau father of 13 and grandfather of "about 22" has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to conservation and Maori, but he is a reluctant recipient of the honour.

"I got pressured by different MPs who said 'it's not for you, it's for the iwi'. I was more inclined to say no. The family knew because I left the letter on my dresser and I was outvoted," he said.

There are several roles, honours and awards the Ngati Hine man has achieved in his lifetime. He is one of the founding members of Nga Whenua Rahui, established in 1990 to protect Maori land through the use of conservation covenants. It is one of the roles he is most proud of.

He has also been a commissioner of the Environment Court since 2003, ex-chairman and current kaumatua for Foundation North, formerly the ASB Community Trust, and he has been chairman of the Te Kahui Maori Advisory Bio-Heritage National Science Challenge.

His environmental passion stems from values instilled by parents and grandparents.

"Going back, our grandparents were doing this long before it was fashionable. My grandmother would be out planting trees along the waterway," he said.

Mr Prime was also involved with the Ngati Hine kereru restoration project, which played a major part in increasing the number of wood pigeons in Ngati Hine forests.

"We didn't just restore pigeons but once we got rid of pests, all the other birds and the bush came back. When you are lucky to come across one or two pigeons flying in the bush and then to see several in the area, that's a huge difference."

Mr Prime was presented the Unesco Peace Builder's Award in 2000, Northland Conservationist of the Decade Award in 1999, Royal Forest and Bird Society Old Blue Award in 1994, and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1991 - this he only accepted because he was curious, he said.

When asked if there was any person he would credit his achievements to, he said it was his "upbringing" - his parents, his grandparents and the next generation who are continuing the mahi. He said the benefits of looking after the environment are clear in Ngati Hine as you can drink the water straight from the creek.

"Well basically I had to acknowledge that often we take credit for success of our own relatives. If I look back, my whanau, my kids and my wife would do a lot of the photocopying and addressing letters and doing the wages, they did all the work you would usually have to pay someone to do," he said.

- Northern Advocate

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