At the age of 12 Whakatāne's Pouroto Ngaropo made the decision to serve others.

Close to four decades later Ngaropo is to be made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori and governance after his inclusion in the New Year 2019 Honours List.

Ngaropo, (Mataatua, Te Arawa, Tainui, Takitimu, Ngātokimatawhaorua), was brought up by his great-grandparents and said he always knew he was going to pursue te reo and extend whānau connections.

"I was inspired by elders of the marae, at hui and tangi, to learn Maori tikanga and traditions and to serve the people as they had," Ngaropo said.

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"I wanted to be able to bring communities together, especially in Whakatāne where we have such a diverse range of people."

Ngaropo is chairman of Te Tāwera Hapū Trust and was a driving force behind the re-establishment and upgrading of Iramoko Marae. He has been deputy chairman of Te Runanga o Ngāti Awa, was involved in Ngāti Awa Treaty settlement negotiations, held positions on Ngāti Awa's Arts Council and various other committees, and was previously chairman of Ngāti Awa Education Grants Committee.

He has been involved with kapa haka in a range of roles, including as tutor and leader of Te Tāwera Hapū, as a composer of contemporary and traditional waiatā, and as leader of kapa haka teams that performed in the United Kingdom in 2008 and 2009.

Ngaropo has held numerous roles as trustee, chairman and member, of various organisations including positions with local and central government.

For the past three years Ngaropo had been working at senior level at Māori Television but said it was lovely to be back in Whakatāne.

"For me it's all about Whakatāne. I am a proud Whakatāne man and have been fortunate to have had mentors like Ching Tutua, Charlie Vercoe and Colin Hammond."

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He said he was shocked and surprised by the honour but also very humbled.

"I must give tribute to my family, in particular my parents and my brother Christian. My mother is my backbone," Ngaropo said.