Co-leader of the Maori Party, Tariana Turia, is delighted that O’Keefe, of Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Porou and Irish descent has been crowned ‘local hero of the year’ in last night’s New Zealander of the Year ceremony.
“Henare has the midas touch” said Mrs Turia. “Whatever initiative he’s involved in, his heart of gold serves to inspire, uplift and affirm the value of the people involved”.
“I have been in awe of the difference he has made in the Flaxmere community simply by believing it is the very best place in the world to live.”
“Henare O’Keefe is a Hastings District Councillor, and youth worker. He and his wife Pam have raised more than 200 foster children, and are devoted to helping the youth of Hastings” said Mrs Turia.
“He has achieved revolutionary change in so many ways. He instigated the ‘Enough is Enough’ hikoi against violence in 2008; he has joined forces with former All Black Taine Randall and nutritionist, Ben Warren in establishing a successful weightloss programme; he has actively advocated for innovative home ownership solutions; he has created community gardens; mentored youth; assisted in the reintegration of prisoners. In short he walks the talk in every part of the community.
“They call him an “Ambassador of Love” and I well understand why. The freezing worker-turned local champion; has worked tirelessly to improve people’s lives.”
Mrs Turia said “When the earthquakes struck Christchurch, Henare immediately travelled South, setting up his mobile barbeque, Tunutunu. He has visited hundreds of homes as part of his active support for ‘Books in Homes’. His U-Turn Academy (now called Youth to Men), is helping to provide a solid foundation for our rangatahi. And just for something different, he has created the inaugural Flaxmere Duathalon and published a gorgeous calendar of “Flaxmere Heroes”.
“All of this has been over and above the miracles Henare has achieved in his professional roles working in youth justice and as a social worker.”
“I remember an interview I heard once with Henare on Radio NZ, where he stated upfront that there was no such thing as a bad baby, and that he considered he had the greatest opportunity to work with children, finding the “precious jewel” inside each child.”
“This is a man who loves his people; loves his community; loves his marae (Te Aranga) – loves life. I am so very proud to know Henare, and I congratulate him and Pam; and his greater whanau for the supreme honour so rightfully accorded to him”. said Mrs Turia