Several Māori were honoured yesterday with the country's most prestigious awards, the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

 

Among those honoured was renowned master waka builder and celestial navigator, Sir Hekenukumai ‘Hec’ Busby, who's been made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to Māori.

 

Sir ‘Hec’ Busby dedicates the honour to his late wife, Ngāhiraka.

 

“Tōku rongona kua homai he tohu pēnei ki ahau, ka hoki ōku mahara ki tōku hoa ki a Hira (Ngāhiraka). Ko māua e mahi tahi mō tō māua mai rā ano. Nā, ko tōku whakaaro pēnei e tika ana ko tēnei tohu ki a ia hoki nē.”

 

The 85-year-old, tributes his wife, who died in 1996, as being his backbone to everything he has done.  

 

Busby has journeyed and worked throughout the Pacific from Tahiti, Rarotonga, Hawaii and Marquesas.

 

“He tohu tino nui, nā ka mutu ki a au, aua hoki. kei a au ehara hoki te tangata pai kia kitea. Hoi anō ko te mea nui ki a au kia oti ngā mahi kei mua i ahau.”

 

Born in 1932 in Pukepoto, Busby knew at 15-years-old that reading and writing was not for him, but yet knew that woodwork and arithmetic were.

 

From building bridges in the Far North to transferring his skills to waka building, it was not until the passing of Sir James Henare in 1989 he decided to pursue the art of waka building.

 

“Kua hinga nei koe tō mātou tōtara whakamarumaru. And that's when I decided that I was going to try to uphold his wishes.”

 

Busby continued the wishes of James to build his first waka Mataatua Puhi, which was used at the 1990 Waitangi Day celebrations.

 

Yet over 30 years later and thousands of nautical miles later, he says he still has more work in front of him.

 

“Nā, tōku tūmanako kia oti te whare nei kia whakahaerehia tētahi kura, ako i ā tātou tamariki te haere moana. Mā ngā whetū rātou e ārahi.”

 

A lifelong commitment to the art and science, he will not rest until he has finished.

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