Eighty-year-old Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi rarely takes a break from a schedule so grinding it would probably make most people a quarter of her age complain about harsh work conditions.
But the Ngati Porou stalwart, who was made a dame in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours for services to Maori education, says she is unlikely to stop any time soon.
"As long as you can move and get up in the morning, why not do something ?" she said. "I'm very busy but until I go deaf or blind why not continue taking an interest in the world and try and make it a better place for your grandchildren?"
A small part of her timetable includes chairing a National Kohanga Reo Trust subsidiary company.
She is also a life member of the Maori Women's Welfare League, a Maori Language Commissioner, deputy chairwoman of the Maori Education Trust and stood as a list candidate for the Maori Party in the Ikaroa Rawhiti electorate last year. But it is her more than 60 years' involvement with Maori education which began at Tikitiki School on the East Coast in 1948 and was possibly crowned with the rise of kohanga reo that secured her the title.
"I think that this award is a tribute to the families that have taken responsibility for kohanga reo over the past 25 years," said Dame Iritana.
"It's really just a pity that only one person can get it."
The first kohanga reo was opened in 1982 in Wainuiomata when Maori leaders realised Te Reo was in a near-terminal state.
Dame Iritana credits many others including activists Hana Jackson, Ripeka Evans, Donna Awatere and Dun Mihaka for bringing the issue to the nation's consciousness.
"There were a whole lot of people who were focusing on the language but it just needed a critical mass - that critical mass were the children, the teachers and the wider whanau."
The idea worked and by the end of 1982 there were 100 kohanga reo around the country. By 1994 there were 800 kohanga reo - most of which operated with little financial assistance from the Government.
Internationally, the model is now seen as a benchmark for the revitalisation of indigenous languages.
Despite her many years of helping others, Dame Iritana has never been "wedded to the idea" of taking responsibility for the wellbeing of people. Her philosophy is one of self-help, with a little guidance, for the best results.By James Ihaka Email James