Hekenukumai Ngaiwi Puhipi Busby, MBE is of Te Rarawa and Ngati Kahu descent.
In 1991-1992 he built the waka hourua Te Aurere which has now sailed over 30,000 nautical miles visiting Hawai'i, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, New Caledonia and Norfolk Island, as well as three circumnavigations of Te Ika a Maui.
Hekenukumai was born at home at Pukepoto near Kaitaia on the 1st August 1932. He went to the local Native School where one of the highlights was visits to Waitangi. There he would sit and commune with the waka taua Ngatokimatawhaorua and wonder if he would ever see a waka like that in the water.
Little did he know then that in 1973, in response to an initiative of Prime Minister Norman Kirk who wanted to change Waitangi Day to New Zealand Day, he would play a central role in re-launching Ngatokimatawhaorua for the 1974 celebrations.
A turning point came in 1984 when the navigator of Hokule'a a replica of a traditional Hawai'ian canoe, Nainoa Thompson visited Hekenukumai prior to voyaging to Aotearoa in 1985.
Hekenukumai told Nainoa that "In this land, we still have our canoe buried. In this land, we still have our language and we trace our genealogies back to the canoes our ancestors arrived on. But we have lost our pride and the dignity of our traditions. If you are going to bring Hokule'a here, that will help bring it back."
During the visit of Hokule'a to Waitangi Sir James Henare expressed the hope that a waka from Aotearoa would make the return trip to central Polynesia. It was Hekenukumai who took up the challenge to build that waka and sail it to Rarotonga.
The New Zealand Commemoration Medal in 1990 and an MBE in 1994 for services to Maori are part of the recognition Hekenukumai has received for what he has contributed to the revival of waka, a central part of Maori culture, and the many other contributions he has made through local, regional, and national organisations.
"Maori art is inseparable from Maori culture. It is like a living organism that exists in the spirit of our people and drives them toward wider horizons and greater achievement."