Korero sees role in righting a wrong
Henare Rakiihia Tau says he was never interested in New Year Honours - but today he must accept the title of Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit graciously.
"I found out in October. I said, ‘I better write and say I can't accept it'. But I forgot," he said. "I would still like to know who is responsible."
He is korero, or speaker, for his pa at Tuahiwi and for Ngai Tahu, as well as a staunch advocate for Maori land and water rights.
Tau has spent his entire life living at Tuahiwi, and says his focus is the same as that of his ancestors: the cultural and spiritual wellbeing of the tribe.
He was a lead negotiator with the Crown for the 1998 Ngai Tahu Settlement and was a driving force behind the establishment of Maori customary fishing regulations.
Tau was a Rangiora County councillor before the Waimakariri District Council was formed and helped establish Ngai Tahu's tribal council, Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu.
Among his achievements was getting land compensated to the pa in 2008 for that taken by the council in 1968 for a motorway at Woodend to Belfast. Another was the opening of the new marae whare last month.
He recalled having a wonderful life on the pa. "I come from the age and era when [you] live off natural resources. Two legs, four legs, feathers or fur, scales and slime. I can survive off the whole lot. I'm slowing down now. That's age catching up."
He said although many young Maori had become more urbanised and "lost sight" of their past, the community was still strong and Maori had "much to be proud of ".
"Whenever there's a wrong, it's got to be righted. I step in at that point. I might be slower than I used to be but I'll be there to defend our history against those who want to divert it or deny it, no matter who they are."
Tau is the third child in a family of seven sisters and four brothers.
He has four sons of his own and 10 grandchildren.