Two Far Northerners are amongst the finalists for the fifth Ngā Whetū o Matariki - Matariki Awards who were announced last week.

Awards will be presented in nine categories ranging from business and innovation, arts and entertainment to te reo and tikanga.

The finalists include Kai Ora Honey (Awanui) founder Blanche Morrogh, and te reo Māori exponent Quinton Hita (Kaikohe). Ngāpuhi's Takahitia Korowira, or Stamp Out Covid-19 strategy, has also been nominated in a special new category, Te Whetū Tārake o Te Rangi, which recognises those who made an outstanding contribution to their community during the Mate Korona (Covid-19) response.

Morrogh describes herself as a firm believer in sharing knowledge and experiences to help grow wahine in leadership and management roles; that sharing lessons will only help others to achieve their best.

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Having studied both business and project management, she has worked in various roles in management, banking institutions, international sales and marketing.

She launched Kai Ora Honey in 2013, with her siblings, and by 2017 was exporting 50 tonnes of mānuka honey annually to Japan, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuwait. She successfully operates 2000 hives.

Kai Ora is whānau-led - her husband Liam and her brothers Tae and Walter are in charge of the hives, and her sister Mabel are also involved in the business, which is guided by their father and grandmother's principles: "We are all about the positive impact we can have on our communities – socially, economically, environmentally and culturally," she told Stuff.

Morrogh has shown fierce resilience on her business journey, surviving near-bankruptcy and the intentional destruction of many of her hives last year. With an increase of counterfeit mānuka honey of the market, the company has invested in innovative ways to authenticate their product, introducing QR codes in 2018 so shoppers can see where the honey is produced.

"Our clients will be able to put their smartphone over a jar of honey and it will pop up with the health certification of where the honey came from. It will give them a batch number traced to our system," she told Radio New Zealand in 2015.

She gives much of the credit for her resilience to her late grandmother Hana (Saana) Waitai Murray.

"Something that we've learned from her is not to give up too easy and there's a bigger picture other than ourselves, but it's also about contributing to our iwi," she told RNZ.

"Jobs were far and few between here in Tai Tokerau and even if you did have a job it was a low-paying labouring job, so the desire was to do better and to create a lifestyle from what we grew up in."

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Te reo and technology

Quinton Hita (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua, Taranaki) has made a diverse and far-reaching contribution to the revitalisation of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga. He has held several roles on language, education, whānau and broadcasting boards, including five years as a Māori Language Commissioner at Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori, a board member of Ngā Aho Whakaari and Te Pūtahi Pāho.

He is currently chairman of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe, the Okorihi Marae Trust and Te Pae Tawhiti (an industry panel). He is a member of the Taumata Whakahaere for the Taitokerau Whare Wānanga programme, Tauranga Kōtuku Rerenga Tahi, and was a member of the Māori Media Sector Shift Advisory Panel in 2019.

He is also the owner and CEO of Kura Productions, and has produced more than 500 hours of television, including the Kowhao Rau suite of programmes, Pūkoro, and the language learning series Tōku Reo. His film credits include the award-winning Mt Zion, Maui's Hook, and the internationally acclaimed short films Taua and The Speaker.

Hita is a stalwart of the Ngāpuhi dialect, and is passionate about regenerating te reo Māori at the grassroots level, with whānau at the centre. He uses technology to promote te reo Māori me ōna tikanga with his tamariki through waiata, kōrero and wānanga on his Facebook page 'Māori Minute,' followed by almost 30,000 people.

He also has a dedicated website that provides whānau-focused language resources to support the revitalisation of te reo Māori in the home.

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"Language at home has all but disappeared in today's age of classroom learning. How do you talk about everyday things like making a bed, brewing a coffee, changing the oil in your car? The reo has always had the capacity to survive and thrive in a modern world, but our homegrown language models have gone," he said.

"For too long I remained confused and unsure on how to revitalise our dialect. But in time I realised that to achieve this goal it must be done together with everyone on board," he added.

The awards will be broadcast live on Māori Television from 8:30pm on Saturday next week (August 15), alongside a live Facebook feed.