A highly acclaimed artist who wrote the All Blacks' haka has been named the supreme winner at the Matariki Awards.

Derek Lardelli is one of the country's finest tā moko designers, a carver, composer, tutor and kapa haka champion.

But among his most high-profile work is writing the All Blacks' haka Kapa-o-pango — one of many haka he has written.

Filmmaker Taika Waititi and actor Cliff Curtis have previously received top honours for the annual celebration of Māori achievement, held in Auckland last night.


Although the All Black haka is performed before millions, the pride he felt hearing it matched his emotions hearing haka he had written for primary or secondary school pupils, Lardelli said.

"There is a place in there for [the All Blacks], but they're part of a bigger picture that I see. No.1, it's valuable, but also it's important for us as a people to share the culture that we have and that we've inherited from our ancestors. We share it with others and it's that sense of inclusivity that makes it special.

"It honours the past, it honours the present and it looks at the future. It gives a voice to the young and old, and that's what I love about it."

The 57-year-old from Gisborne-Tūranganui-a-Kiwa said awards such as Matariki were good for everyone.

"I think it's important to celebrate success, not just necessarily Māori. The most important part is that we commemorate and think of the past and those that have gone on. That's where our country started from, people who took an opportunity to go where no one had gone before.

"That's what we're celebrating — we're the youngest country in the world and yet we're capable of doing great things."

He hoped others would take their own talents and do great things — even if that meant taking risks.

"It's about accepting you've got this skill and you've got to utilise it. You've got to keep that flame burning, and there are lots of people who want to be part of that flame. So keep stoking that fire."


Māori art was a good example of people, particularly in the past, who used new tools and materials to innovatively grow a culture that was under threat, Lardelli said.

"I think we still do that today. Not necessarily the under threat part, but the gut feeling that you can do something to help others."

The moko movement was a good example of meeting a challenge — the non-acceptance by some of the traditional art form — and changing views.

"Restoring it back to a place of mana took a lot of courage by a group of very strong people who were committed to seeing the art form for what it was. Now it's one of the biggest indigenous marks in the world and it identifies us as being part of Māori, part of Aotearoa and part of New Zealand."

Lardelli, who is Ngāti Porou and Rongowhakaata, said ultimately his success was thanks to those he held dearest.

"Without my beautiful wife and my two children, and my whānau and extended whānau, I probably would not be where I am. That's the key right there — good people, loving you no matter what.


"You can sit in the light of matariki and say, 'Yep, I'm okay, this is where we're going and it's all good'."