The Te Arawa Awards evening was one "full of love" and Te Ao Leach was proud to take home the Te Puhi o Te Arawa Award.

The award is in memory of high achiever Okeroa Douglas, who was a rising sportswoman and a member of the Bay of Plenty Under-18 hockey team.

Established to remember the life and contribution of the talented teenager the Te Puhi o Te Arawa Award celebrates outstanding rangatahi excellence and future excellence.

"I went to school with Okeroa, so I am proud to walk in her footsteps and to acknowledge her in all that I do," Leach said.


The talented 18-year-old found it difficult to talk about herself.

"In everything I do, I try to do my best and I never limit myself.

"My whānau are so proud and my koro, I've never seen him cry until I won it, so for me to see that was so touching for me."

Her parents and koro attended the night with her.

"I really work for those moments, to make my family proud and to pay back the people who have worked hard to get me here."

Te Ao participates in kapa haka, basketball, volunteers with the community and is the deputy head girl at Rotorua Girls' High School.

For the rest of the year, she will be focusing on her scholarship subjects and preparing for her final exams, she said.

"I want to make my last term of high school as memorable as I can and I just can't wait to see what's ahead."


Next year she plans to do a conjoint degree in commerce and law at Auckland University.

She said the Te Arawa Awards were full of love and she enjoyed seeing everybody crossing the stage.

"I could just feel it when I was up there and it was so special.

"It makes me feel proud to be from Te Arawa and that's why we all do what we do, to make Te Arawa proud."

Award recipients

Te Arawa Rangatahi Awards:

Cooper Simes, Daneka O'Brien, Awatere Douglas-Karauna, Waikimihia Douglas-Karauna, Manaia Christiansen, Tiki Hunia, Te Pumanawa o toku ate Rogers, Makeretekahu Harariki Wallace-Ihakara, Blue Jones, Katarina Haverkamp, Ruaeo Te Moni, Te Ao Leach, Marino Playle-Thompson, Maunganui Hawe, Anipātene Biddle, Danielle Te Rauaroha Raiatea Selwyn, Kashius Farmer, Kataraina Fredricksen, Wahreporera Hare-Herbert, Jasmine Morrison, Te Māhina Wallace-Ihakara, Witana Sullivan

Te Kotahitanga o Te Arawa (Te Arawa Fisheries) scholarship recipients:
Cooper Simes, Daneka O'Brien, Katarina Haverkamp, Tuhi Ihakara, Maunganui Hawe

Te Puhi o Te Arawa:
Te Ao Leach

Te Tohu Matariki Ahunganui - Collective Wellbeing in Action:
Pikiao Pānui

Te Tohu Tōere Wāhi Ngaru - Advancing Rangati Potential:

Te Tohu o Hine-ahu-one - Ensuring the future of our whakapapa:
Talei Morrison for Smear Your Mea

Te Tohu Te Manu Tuauru - Te Arawa Hall of Fame Membership:
Hannah Taini Morrison

Te Tohu Tahuna-ā-Tara - Excellence in Waka Ama:
Okareka Waka Ama Crew

Kaipara a Hineterēhia - Excellence in Artistic Roller Skating and Karate:
Hunter Jenkins

Te Tohu Pākai Taiapu - Excellence in coaching Rugby League:
Jason Sayers

Te Tohu Pākai Taiapu - Excellence in coaching netball:
Hemi McKinney-Richards

Te Tohu Te Hāpai ō Hākinakina - Excellence in service to sports:
Josh Te Kowhai

Te Tohu Tōtara Whakairo - Excellence in rugby: Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi