Whale Rider author Witi Ihimaera's contribution to literature has been honoured by France during its Bastille Day celebrations.
The author accepted the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) from French Ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler during a ceremony in Auckland on Thursday.
Three Kiwi World War II navy veterans Frank Sanft, John Macvicar and Harold Beven also received France's highest order of merit, the Legion of Honour, at the celebrations.
Ihimaera, 73, was the first Maori writer to publish a novel, in 1973, and has gone on to write 15 books along with numerous short story collections, poetry and stints in screen writing.
His 1987 book Whale Rider inspired the internationally acclaimed film and has been a favourite in Kiwi classrooms ever since.
Ambassador Jeanblanc-Risler said Ihimaera was honoured because he was "a trailblazer in Maori literature and screenwriting", Fairfax reports.
"For your pivotal role in bringing Maori storytelling to the forefront and enabling its international recognition as a taonga from New Zealand, the French government has decided to nominate you as a recipient of the Order of Arts and Letters," she said at Thursday's ceremony.
Mr Sanft, Mr Macvicar and Mr Beven were honoured for helping to liberate France during WWII having all served with the British Royal Navy in operations related to the D-Day landings in 1944.