Renowned waka builder Sir Hekenukumai Busby dies aged 86

Sir Hekenukumai Busby, a renowned navigator and master waka builder, has died at the age of 86.

Busby was knighted at a ceremony in Waitangi in February, credited with reviving traditional Māori seafaring, and has spent recent years educating children about sailing.

Known simply as Hec or Sir Hec, his contributions in promoting traditional navigation techniques were acknowledged at Waitangi by Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy as helping to build a partnership between iwi, pākehā, Government and private organisations.

"Please wear your insignia with pride, knowing your work is valued here in Aotearoa as well as beyond our shores, and has inspired many others to follow in your example," said Ms Reddy.

After hearing of his death, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was her honour to be with him at the investiture ceremony..

"Deeply saddened to hear that Sir Hekenukumai Busby has passed away," she wrote in an Instagram post.

"I wish you well on your final journey Sir Hek.

"May the waters be calm and the stars guide the way to your final resting place."

In 2012, Busby and a crew set off from Auckland to sail 18,500km in two traditional waka, using only the sun, stars, ocean currents and sea life to guide them on their way to Easter Island.

Both waka, Te Aurere and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti, were built by Mr Busby. Te Aurere was constructed in the early 1990s and has sailed to Hawaii, French Polynesia and New Caledonia.

Busby's citation noted his involvement with the Waitangi National Trust and Polynesian Voyaging Society.

"Sir Hec continues to construct waka and impart his knowledge on waka-building and traditional navigation techniques from a school established on his property," it said.

"He has been involved in the construction of twin-hulled voyaging waka, which is intended as a living classroom for youth."

Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti Minister Kelvin Davis also paid his respects.

"An esteemed kaumatua of Tai Tokerau, a master carver and waka builder. A navigator with a curious mind, a story for every occasion, and now a legacy that will not be forgotten."

"Our thoughts are with Sir Hekenukumai’s whānau at this time."