A woman who has been a strong advocate for Maori education and the revitalisation of te reo was awarded a Queen's Service Medal in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours.

The award still hadn't sunk in for Omahu resident Rehia Hanara yesterday but it was fair to say she felt very humbled and blown away by the national recognition.

"I am overwhelmed and speechless," Mrs Hanara said.

The 84-year-old played a vital part in the establishment of the first kohanga reo in the Ngati Kahungunu tribal district on Omahu Marae in 1981 and went on to be a strong advocate for Maori language.


Mrs Hanara said the local school wasn't keen on promoting the Maori language at the time so a group of passionate men and women got together to establish an alternative.

"It was sad but we had to break away from Omahu School so we managed to get the old principal's house and convert that into the kohanga before establishing Te Kura Kaupapa O Te Ara Hou."

She said it wasn't easy because the kohanga had to move around for a while, going to places such as Mangateretere, before being cemented in its present site in Napier.

"It is a beautiful and lovely school and it is lovely seeing the new generation go through the different stages."

Mrs Hanara is currently kuia and kaikaranga for Ngati Kahungunu and was involved in fundraising for the construction of the Omahu Marae wharekai, which was opened in 1990 debt free.

She was also involved with the Omahu Maori Committee, which engaged with local authorities on various issues affecting the Omahu community.

"I don't teach any more at the marae but I still go along and sit there and support everyone and guide them."

"I love being able to see the young ones come up and I have my children and grandchildren all here."


In 2015 Mrs Hanara received the Heretaunga Taiwhenua Living Taonga Award for her contribution to the community.

Mrs Hanara's granddaughter Jacqueline Hanara said it was a great honour for her grandmother to receive the Queen's Service Medal.

"She has been there for us and is our go-to lady. She has done a lot for our marae and the community."

Ms Hanara said her grandmother would give advice to anyone and everyone on a range of things, whether it be life skills or advice on the marae.

"My grandmother is very humbled by it and we feel a great sense of honour as a family."