University fellowship humbles kaumatua
An Invercargill man who has dedicated his life to Southland Maori and community affairs has become the first person to receive a special honour from the Southern Institute of Technology.
Michael Skerrett has been the kaumatua at SIT for nine years and is also a SIT council member.
This week he received an Honorary Fellowship to commemorate his contributions to environmental management, tertiary education and other community leadership in Murihiku Southland.
Despite his significant contributions to SIT and to Southland, Mr Skerritt was "shocked" and "humbled" by the accolade.
"I think I'm just a pretty ordinary bloke," he said.
He worried that people may believe he was not deserving of the award but his worries were unfounded.
"People seem to be quite happy that I got it."
Last year he was awarded a Queen's Service Medal for services to Maori and the community.
However, Mr Skerrett began his adult life more interested in training horses than dedicating his life to the Southland community. As a horse trainer he was quite successful, winning more than 100 races but, after joining Ngai Tahu, he began his lifelong dedication.
In 1999, Mr Skerrett joined Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, the tribal council, and continues to be a member.
His family can be traced back more than 800 years in Southland, which had ignited his passion for protecting the future of Ngai Tahu.
"I feel a responsibility for the area," he said.
He has been the manager of Te Ao Marama Inc, the Ngai Tahu consultancy on resource management issues for local and regional councils in Southland, since 1996.
He has been the director of Murihiku Holdings Limited since 1994 and Waihopai Runaka Holdings since 2000.
He has a problem saying no to people, he said.
"My immediate reaction when someone asks me to do something is to give it a go."
The recent accolade from SIT has reignited his passion to contribute to the future of Ngai Tahu.
"It's really great because it's such an exciting time with settlement and building a future for the Ngai Tahu nation."
- The Southland Times
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