Aroha Reriti-Crofts has been named a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, recognising her services to Māori and the community.
Dame Aroha has spent her life dedicated to health initiatives in Māori communities and is also a Justice of the Peace and a life member of the Māori Women's Welfare League.
Last night her family, including her children and mokopuna (grandchildren), celebrated the honour with a champagne toast on the video-calling app Houseparty.
"Yesterday we were hilariously happy," she told Breakfast today.
Her 50 years devoted to service began when her four children headed off to school. She called up an aunty to ask about the Māori Women's Welfare League and immediately signed up for the Christchurch branch.
"It's been an exciting life ever since and I wouldn't have it any other way."
Dame Aroha downplayed the challenges of the work she's poured her life into.
"The reports are saying I have worked hard, that's rubbish," she says.
"I have worked with our whānau, our hapū, and our iwi, and our league. And if you're working and you're loving it, it's not work, it's just pleasure."
Ngāi Tahu has celebrated the honour as well, the iwi praising the "proud day" for Dame Aroha.
"It is incredibly fitting that she has become the first Ngāi Tahu wahine to be made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, given her staunch advocacy for wāhine Māori," kaiwhakahaere (chair) Lisa Tumahai says.