A Whakatu man's efforts to improve Māori life in the local community have been recognised in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours list.

Des Ratima was left "totally honoured" after being made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori - an award he said he would honour by transforming his own life.

"I received notification in March that I was being considered for a Queen's honour, but that I should keep it confidential until I received a letter confirming the honour. It was both exciting and hard to keep it quiet and from my family.

"So was it a surprise, yes initially, but now it's a matter of understanding why and what does it mean.


"I am totally honoured that people thought my work was worthy of recognition. I wish to thank them all. Those who nominated and those who wrote the support letters. And like many before me I recognise the lifelong work of my parents their love and patience for a headstrong son.

"I understand that this honour is high in the list of honours which our country has for recognising individual efforts. So, again, I feel totally humbled and honoured.

"People who have received similar such honours often say this will not change them and that they will continue to do what they have always done. Well receiving this honour will change me.

"I believe such recognition is given for potential as well as for achievements. Potential provides so many opportunities to do what you have done, better. To elevate your efforts to transform your outcomes. It also gives reassurance that what you have achieved has value and therefore there is a requirement to increase this value.

"So, I am required to change, and I will, it will be change for the better, it will be change that transforms. I must honour the honour."

Ratima, who organised the inaugural Whakatu Christmas in the Park event in 2003, has given significant service to the development of the Whakatu community over the past 14 years.

He chaired Whakatu Kohanga Reo for 10 years, reviving it from a struggling early childhood education provider to a successful learning nest.

He has been chairperson of the Te Kupenga A Maui and Whaea o te Ara Police committees since 2007, helping to develop strategies to reduce the number of Māori involved in crime.


Ratima is chairman of the post-settlement entity Ahuriri District Health Trust, having previously been a negotiating member of the claims committee for five years. He has worked with Māori Wardens regionally and was deputy chairman of New Zealand Māori Council (NZMC), during which time he reorganised the local structure and created the Takitimu District Māori Wardens.

He has represented Takitimu District Māori Council on the NZMC since 2012. He has been a cultural and environmental adviser for regional and district councils and a member of the Hawke's Bay District Health Board Māori Relationship Board.

He is also chairman of the Marae collective Nga Marae O Heretaunga and has helped organise various projects.

Ratima was also instrumental in establishing the first military marae in Waiouru in 1995.