She's been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in the Queen's Birthday Honours List, but Raukawa Settlement Trust chairwoman Vanessa Eparaima almost turned down the award.
"I'm a bit embarrassed really," she said.
"I talked to our kaumata about the honour and after a conversation with them decided to accept it, not for me but on behalf of Raukawa. Any work that I do I don't do alone, I do it with an amazing group of people and an amazing iwi that I totally respect and respect being able to do this work on their behalf."
Eparaima has received the honour for services to Maori for her work as the Mokai Marae representative and chairwoman of the Raukawa Settlement Trust, the parent body of central North Island iwi, Raukawa.
Before taking her current role Eparaima was the inaugural chairwoman of the Raukawa Iwi Development Ltd, the commercial arm for Raukawa, and acted as lead negotiator for the iwi which achieved its deed to settlement signing in 2012, and completed its comprehensive settlement negotiations in April 2014.
She is a director of Central North Island Iwi Holdings and is the inaugural chairwoman of Kakano Investments Ltd. She is a member of the Waikato River Authority, Global Women New Zealand, and is a former consultant to small-medium enterprises.
She is also the former CEO of Whakarewarewa Thermal Village Tours and has been a trustee of two former school boards. According to the honours list citation, Eparaima "has combined an impressive background in senior management and governance roles with a passion for Maori and community development".
Typical of honours list recipients, Eparaima was keen to stress the work of others.
"The honour would be a tribute to all those people that have gone before me, the trail blazers in our past, the leaders and workers who brought us to this position."
- Waikato Times