Taranaki reo expert Keri Opai says the significant honour given to the Ngati Ruanui kaumatua Te Huirangi Waikerepuru, reflects his tireless years of work advancing major Maori language initiatives.
The veteran language advocate has been recognised by winning the Taku Toa Takimano award for an individual’s contribution to te reo.
Mr Waikerepuru is singled out for his work leading to the passing of the Maori Language Act and his efforts to get the Crown to protect te reo as a taonga in broadcasting.
That ultimately led to the creation of Maori Television.
Mr Opai says, for the last three decades, the respected elder has been a pillar of strength for the Te Reo o Taranaki movement.
He says Mr Waikerepuru was pivotal when the movement first began in supporting the up-and-coming generations learn te reo at a time when many of the region’s native speakers were dying.
Mr Opai says Mr Waikerepuru has always been a staunch campaigner for the language, especially amongst the youth.
Te Huirangi Waikerepuru was given the award at the annual Maori Language Awards ceremony held in Rotorua on Friday.