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Master navigator honoured as Awanuiārangi looks to broaden horizons

30 May 2017

Hekenukumai (Hec) Busby with whanau.

Master navigator, waka builder and ocean voyager Hekenukumai (Hec) Busby received an honorary doctorate and more than 200 graduates were capped in Whakatāne on Friday as Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi marked its 25th anniversary year with plans to build a ground-breaking science centre.

Chief Executive Officer Professor Wiremu Doherty told hundreds of graduates, their supporters and distinguished guests at Te Mānuka Tūtahi Marae that the 25-year milestone reflected the tenacity of those who drove the tertiary institution’s establishment and supported its growth from two disused portable classrooms, 26 students and unpaid lecturers to today’s three sites, more than 1300 graduates this year, and more than 200 staff across Aotearoa.

In the next phase of expansion, as the wānanga continues to advance programmes that respond to the needs of business, industry and students and their communities, Awanuiārangi plans to develop an Imaginarium concept and construct a “revolutionary” science institute in its home town of Whakatāne.

Chair of the Council, Distinguished Professor Sir Sidney (Hirini) Moko Mead, said a science focus would be advanced in preparation for great changes expected in industry, technology and employment needs in the future.

“We plan to introduce a range of courses in science, mathematics, technology and possibly engineering,” Distinguished Professor Mead said. “We are thinking of becoming a larger institution over the next 25 years, with a much larger footprint in the town and other parts of the North Island, and a greater input into our local economy – not only to grow the wānanga, but the town as well. Expansion will need to include the building of student accommodation.”

A record six Doctoral graduates, Masters, Bachelors, Diploma and Certificate graduates were capped on Friday. In a highlight of the day, Hec Busby (Te Rārawa, Ngāti Kuri and Ngāti Kahu) was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) in Māori Development for outstanding academic achievement and endeavour over a lifetime in the science of navigation, waka construction and voyaging in the Pacific. He has built more than 30 vessels and is recognised internationally as a leading figure in the revival of ancient Polynesian navigation and ocean voyaging techniques.

Special awards were presented as follows: Emeritus Professor Roger Green, ONZM Award for Top Thesis, Phyllis Gwen Callaghan (who was also the Valedictorian); Te Onehou Eliza Phillis Award for Outstanding Iwi Research, Te Reinga Chase; School of Indigenous Graduate Studies - Top Scholar Award, Te Moanaroa Ngatoko Togo; School of Undergraduate Studies - Top Scholar Award, Rebecca Pae Jaram; Te Ira Wairua - School of Iwi Development Top Scholar, Tania Maloney Faulkner-Gear; Excellence in Te Reo Māori Award, Fabian Mika; Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiārangi Contribution to Iwi Development and Advancement Award, Kahuranaki Marae; Most Improved Student in a degree programme in Te Reo Māori, Tilly Marie Tipene.