Timua Brennan is the third successive generation of her direct family line to receive a royal honour, something she describes as a "huge, huge humbling experience".

The opera singer and advocate for Māori in performing arts has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours, in recognition of her services to music and Māori.

She follows in the footsteps of her grandmother Elizabeth Timua Crofts, who received a Queen's Service Medal in 1986 and her father George Te-Otinga Hori Brennan, who became an Order of the British Empire in 1984.

Looking to the future, Brennan said she already saw "great potential in her children and grandchildren" as future honorary recipients.

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When she first heard she was going to be honoured, Brennan said she screamed out "who did this?".

Timua Brennan has been appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of her services to music and Māori. Photo / Ben Fraser
Timua Brennan has been appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of her services to music and Māori. Photo / Ben Fraser

"When something totally unexpected like this happens it's just the most wonderful feeling.

"I was gobsmacked."

Passionate about music, Brennan has had a life-long involvement with Māori performing arts and has delivered numerous soloist performances as an opera singer nationally and internationally.

The singer was encouraged to enter into classical studies by the late Manu Bennett, and completed a large amount of her vocal training in Italy.

"I am happy to be recognised for a contribution both to singing and Māori.

"I come from a kapa haka background and that's a big part of who I am."

She has given solo performances at events of national significance such as Canterbury earthquake commemorations and Waitangi Day celebrations, as well as regular performances with events such as the Opera in the Pa outdoor concerts and for the Rotorua Lakeside Concert Charitable Trust.

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She was an adjudicator for the New Zealand Lockwood Aria singing competition between 2009 and 2016 across several categories, and has been an adjudicator for several regional kapa haka competitions.

Brennan won the New Zealand Lockwood Aria in the Māori and regional sections five times and has performed a number of operas and with a range of New Zealand choirs and orchestras.

She conducted the Canti Māori Italian Tour in 2004 as a soloist performing a fusion of Māori and Italian songs.

She launched her operatic album Na Te Ao in 2017, which honours the people and communities of Canterbury affected by the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

She has tutored local students as a specialist vocal coach.

Brennan now operates a tourism business providing Māori cultural entertainment on the Lakeland Queen cruise boat on Lake Rotorua.

She said she didn't know what was in store for the future but was looking forward to new adventures.