Cletus (Maanu) Paul was pleasantly surprised when told of his inclusion in the Queen's Birthday 2019 Honours List — but not for obvious reasons.

Paul is to be made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Māori, following more than half a century of contribution to the advancement of Māori throughout New Zealand.

"I have been an advocate toward keeping the Government honest," Paul said. "Because of this I didn't make many friends in Government so, it is for this reason I am a little surprised."

He said his advocacy put him in a position where he sacrificed many things but believes it has all been worth it.

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"I remember well, being at a hui where 100 very important people had been invited to talk about the country's constitution. A question put to Sir Graham Latimer was deferred to me and I responded with 'Before we begin looking at the constitution of New Zealand, we need to recognise Māori have more rights in this country.'

"Not only were we given the same rights as British citizens under the Treaty, we were also given the right to use our taonga [our land, our river and our language]. This bought the hui to a halt."

Paul said he has been advocating from this position so his black-haired, brown-eyed mokopuna would have equality with his blonde-haired, blue-eyed mokopuna.

Paul was a negotiator for the New Zealand Māori Council in the Māori fisheries claim, a long-serving member of the New Zealand Māori Council, and is a community leader who has advocated passionately for the interests of his iwi, hapū, whānau and te ao Māori in general.

Paul played a lead role in the establishment of the Mātaatua Rangatahi Court at Wairaka Marae in Whakatāne, and continues to volunteer.

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