IronMāori and its immense contribution to improving the health of Māori have been awarded the Te Tupu-a-Rangi Award for Health & Science at the Matariki Awards 2016.
Heather Te Au-Skipworth and Missy Mackay created the first IronMāori half ironman race in 2009 as a way to tackle obesity and promote healthier lifestyles among Māori.
It quickly surged in popularity and the IronMāori brand has expanded rapidly. It now encompasses the quarter iron man race as well as IronMāori Tamariki-Rangatahi event for youngsters and the major half ironman race - a 2km swim, 90km cycle and 21.1km run.
Other IronMāori events have also flourished as a result, such as the IronMāori Duathlon in the Wairarapa, the IronMāori Kaumātua event in Napier, IronMāori Taranaki, and IronMāori Whakatū Nelson. In 2013 there was an IronMāori Gold Coast event; and in 2016 Tāmaki Makaurau had its turn.
Over the past seven years, more than 35,000 people have taken part in IronMāori events, leading more than a thousand of those through to Ironman New Zealand.
Co-founder Heather Te Au-Skipworth says the focus of the event has always been on participation and helping people achieve their goals of simply crossing the finish line. Everyone wants to improve their health and wellbeing, and taking on a massive individual challenge in an environment that makes you feel like one of the whānau is inspiring for all. It's also transformed thousands of other Maori lives, lives which are more likely to end short of their potential.
Heather won a Sir Peter Blake Trust Leadership Award in 2011 and a Queens Service Medal in 2014 for her commitment to improving Māori health. She was elected to the Hawkes Bay District Health Board in 2013.