For more than four decades, Tihi Puanaki, of Ngāti Hine and Ngāi Tahu descent, has been been a leader in kapa haka and waiata Māori. Her hard work and dedication over the years has earned her the Lifetime Achievement award at this year's Pride of New Zealand Awards.
Affectionately known as 'Whaea Tihi', she currently works as a teacher in Christchurch and established the first kura kaupapa Māori in the South Island, Te Kura Whakapūmau i Te Reo Tūturu in 1986.
Throughout the years, she has been a teacher, an instructor, performer, composer, choreographer and organiser.
Many will know that she is also the tutor of the most superior rōpū haka in Te Waipounamu, Te Kotahitanga, a group she established alongside her husband, sons and whānau. They have been named winners at both regional and national kapa haka competitions.
In 2003, she was awarded a QSM for her work in Māori education, and in 2010 was awarded recognition by Ngāi Tahu for her work in revitalising reo and kaupapa Māori, especially in the areas of kapa haka in Te Waipounamu.
Tihi's achievements don't end there. Through the medium of kapa haka she has been able to 'heal' youth who have been seriously addicted to drugs and alcohol.
Michelle Manuel, who nominated Tihi for this prestigious award says, "That's the impact that Whaea Tihi has on the youth of today, on the people that she teaches, and the adults that she has counselled."
She says, "Whaea Tihi, for us and Māoridom, is at the forefront."