Riria Utiku celebrates 100th birthday

By Heeni Brown

A stalwart of veteran Maori Club, Ngāti Poneke, reaches a century in age.

Riria Utiku of Ngati Tama descent celebrated her 100th birthday at Pipitea marae in Wellington with her efforts being celebrated by the Queen of England, Governor General and Prime Minister.

The Master of Ceremony Don Rangi says, "She was one of the first, she nurtured us through kapahaka, through Ngati Poneke, she would come to church with us and helped us out where ever she could."

100-year-old Riria Utiku attributes her longevity to hard work and playing lots of sports, but her time in Ngāti Poneke Maori Club helped reconnect her to her Maori culture.

Utiku says, "They were good years. Had to learn about a lot of Maori things because us children were brought up as Europeans, just grows on you once you've joined up you're all part of it."

Queen Elizabeth in a birthday card says, "I am delighted to send you my warm congratulations on your one hundredth birthday, together with my very best wishes for an enjoyable celebration."

Prime Minister John Key says in his birthday card to her, "Many congratulations on Your 100th Birthday...I hope you have happy time celebrating this special day."

And Governor General Jerry Mateparae in his birthday card to Utiku says, "I am so pleased to know that you're celebrating your One Hundredth birthday...and I send congratulations and best wishes for you on such a special occasion."