Sir Hek Busby knighted by Governor-General in stirring Waitangi ceremony

Hekenukumai Busby who received his investiture today
Hekenukumai Busby who received his investiture today Photo credit: Newshub

With a crowd of hundreds looking on in admiration, Hekenukumai Busby, a renowned navigator and master waka builder, has been officially knighted at an investiture ceremony in Waitangi.

Mr Busby, who received notice of the accolade in last year's Queen's Birthday honours, is largely credited with reviving traditional Māori seafaring and has spent recent years educating children about sailing - something Governor-General Patsy Reddy said will ensure the craft lives on.

The events began on Monday afternoon with speeches from significant Māori figures, before the rain began to bear down. 

While umbrellas went up for the brief shower, no one stirred from their chairs or positions, all captivated by Ms Reddy's detailed account of Mr Busby's contribution to Māoridom.

She spoke of how his work in promoting the use of traditional navigation techniques solidified the craft as something that needed to be sustained by future generations. 

His contributions were also acknowledged as having help 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.

The respect Mr Busby has earned across the globe was symbolised by the attendance of representatives from several pacific nations.

In 2012, Mr 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.

"His dedication and achievements have earned Sir Hek one of our nations hugest honours, a knighthood," said Ms Reddy.

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

"Sir Hek 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."

During the ceremony, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sat with the guest of honour as his accomplishments were read out. At one stage Mr Busby leaned over to talk to her chuckling and smiling, with Ms Ardern replying with a warm pat on the arm.

Her presence on the upper marae had been highly anticipated. When she arrived after a brief intermission in events, whispers began circulating from young children - "there she is" they said, with gleeful smiles.

After Ms Reddy tapped Mr Busby on the shoulder with a ceremonial sword and proclaimed "Arise, Sir Hek", a large group of men and women performed a powerful haka.

Showing off the ferocity and power of their actions, the rangatahi performed alongside their elders - symbolic of the partnership Mr Busby built with the future generation.

The children clearly understood the significance of the event they were appearing at, and they held nothing back to honour New Zealand's newest Knight.