"He inspired me" - rangatahi gather to welcome Busby

By Jessica Tyson

Rangatahi have gathered at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds to welcome Māori leader Hekenukumai Pūhipi, affectionately known as Hek Busby, on the day of his investiture ceremony.

Hundreds of kaihoe and kaihaka assembled this morning to honour Pūhipi, the man widely credited for his work towards revitalising traditional Maori voyaging methodologies.

Rangatahi Reiha Conrad told Te Kāea she grew up beside Pūhipi when she was younger, “following him every year as a kid”.

She says he inspired her to learn how to paddle.

“He inspired me because he knew my grandfather, he knew all the history behind it, so we’d sit there and just listen to his kōrero that he learnt from my grandfather," she says.

“He taught us a lot of things about the waka hourua, about the stars, about how to get from there to here.”

Conrad says she is proud that Pūhipi has been appointed a Knight Companion of the Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

“He’s one of the longest I’ve known who’s been at Waitangi every year, so I’m quite proud that he’s becoming a 'Sir'.”

She says she loves waka because of her ancestors.

“It reminds me of what they went through to get here so I’m just so proud to be here to represent my grandparents that have passed away.”

Koroua Allan Smith tells Te Kāea that he brought his mokopuna along to honour Pūhipi today, and watch his two sons- who are involved in the kaihoe.

“Very proud of my mokos and my sons- my two sons are here- it’s continuing on the tradition of Waitangi and whānau, hapu and iwi connections at Waitangi.”

Smith say he’s proud Pūhipi is being knighted because of the work he’s has done to help rangatahi and the future generations of his whānau.

“He’s done so much mahi for our marae, our hapu and our iwi and for Te Ao Māori.”

In the early 1990s, Pūhipi built the waka hourua, Te Aurere. 

It has sailed more than 30,000 nautical miles, visiting Hawaii, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, New Caledonia and Norfolk Island, as well as making three circumnavigations of the North Island since 1992.

Busby's reputation has spread across the oceans, and he became revered as a knowledgeable source of traditional seafaring voyaging techniques.

He passes these traditions on through his school of learning, Te Wānanga a Kupe Mai Tawhiti, which was opened in 2013, in order to revive ancient boat building practices.