A celebration dinner honouring George Burt was attended by close members of the community in Katikati on Tuesday.

George Leonard Burt was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in the 2020 New Year honours, for his services to Māori and broadcasting. Governor-General Patsy Reddy presented George the MNZM insignia in Wellington last Thursday.

The evening, held at the Talisman Hotel in Katikati, turned into a sharing of memories, of the 40 years that George has been part of the community with his wife, Mabel Wharekawa-Burt.

In 2009 Mabel was made an MNZM for her contribution to community service and performing arts.

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Tuesday's gathering shared laughter, tears, history ... "it was totally humbling to be a part of people who love so well."

George Burt and wife Mabel Wharekawa-Burt, front right, surrounded by close friends at the celebration dinner.
George Burt and wife Mabel Wharekawa-Burt, front right, surrounded by close friends at the celebration dinner.

George initially was reluctant to accept the award and said earlier this year that he was "humbled to accept and to honour those who nominated him and for the recognition it brings to iwi radio and te ao Māori."

George helped the iwi of Tauranga Moana to establish their own iwi station in 1992, after a long period of service in radio broadcast. He became pivotal to the establishment of most of the network of iwi radio across New Zealand.

He was a driver of simultaneous broadcast between radio and the advent of livestream. He was a pioneer in simultaneous translation services for Government panels and Treaty of Waitangi hearings. He pioneered the Hakarongo Mai Translation Service implemented by Te Matatini Performing Arts.

George has continued to train iwi broadcasters, particularly emerging leaders, to become effective and independent managers of their broadcast resources.
Learning the culture's words and ways was not always easy.

George feels honoured to perform formal roles on marae, and is appreciative of the knowledge shared, especially by Tangata Whenua Te Rereatukahia.

"These days reo is more about fulfilling roles and responsibilities on the marae and in the community."