Renowned navigator and master waka builder Sir Hekenukumai Puhipi will be formally knighted in Waitangi next month.

Sir Hek - as he is better known - was named a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in last year's Queen's Birthday Honours for services to Māori.

After Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy is welcomed on to Te Whare Rūnanga - the carved meeting house at the Upper Treaty Grounds, on Monday, February 4 - she will present Sir Hek with his knighthood.

Pita Paraone, chairman of the Waitangi Day organising committee, said Dame Whina Cooper and Sir Graham Latimer both had their honours bestowed upon them at Te Tii Marae, but this was the first time an investiture had happened at Te Whare Rūnanga.


"It's very significant but it pales in to insignificance when you consider the recipient himself and the fact that he's receiving a knighthood for the work that he's been responsible for - particularly in relation to waka hourua and the promotion of celestial navigation for ocean-going waka."

Sir Hek began earning his international reputation as a master waka builder and navigator in 1990, when he built the double-hulled Te Aurere.

But it was an invitation from John Rangihau, who Sir Hek regarded as prophet, to travel to Hawaii in 1984 that was the beginning of everything.

Work was well under way there to restore the ancient craft of building and sailing waka, and when he was asked to name a New Zealander who might be interested, Rangihau had no hesitation in nominating Sir Hek.

Paraone said Waitangi was a fitting place for Sir Hek to be knighted.

"Given the connection with Ngatokimatawhaorua - it being based at Waitangi - it certainly contributed to his initial interest as a young man in the whole kaupapa of waka, waka building and seafaring," he said