Tangiwai Margaret Ria

Iwi Affiliations: Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki 

Finalist: Te Waipuna-ā-Rangi Award for Arts and Entertainment


Tangiwai Ria was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori performing arts and the community in 2016 after more than three decades involvement with kapa haka group Waihīrere.

Tangiwai Ria is recognised nationally for her involvement with kapa haka and is a life member of the national Māori performing arts festival, Te Matatini. She had led Waihīrere to three national victories in 1988, 1998 and 2002.


Tangiwai Ria is acknowledged for shaping the lives of so many through Māori performing arts and for continually pushing performers to strive for excellence.

Tangiwai Ria is also recognised for her work in reminding people to enjoy and celebrate their culture through the teachings of the unique fabric and whakapapa that is ‘Waihīrere’.

She has led groups comprising performers from around New Zealand to international showcases at the World Expo in 1992, Royal Albert Hall in London, Commonwealth Games at Kuala Lumpur and the Pacific Arts Festival in Palau in 2004.

Tangiwai Ria hails from Parihimanihi Marae where she says her people are “my heart and soul”. Since moving back home in 1978, she has worked hard to give everything for her whānau, hapū and iwi.

Tangiwai Ria was chair of the trustees for Parihimanihi Marae in the village of Waihīrere near Gisborne from 2000 to 2015.

She supervised major renovation projects for the primary buildings on the marae and has provided oversight in the development and implementation of policies for the revitalisation of language and protocols through facilitating wānanga. 

She mentors the Eco-Warriors – a group of Māori youth from Waihīrere – engaging in the environmental preservation and restoration of the Waihīrere Domain.

Tangiwai Ria has been a trustee of Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki Trust for 10 years which leads the Treaty of Waitangi claims process for the iwi. She is also a trustee of Te Rūnanga o Tūranganui-a-Kiwa – an organisation that represents the three iwi of the Gisborne area.

In a tribute on Facebook, Māori media personality Matai Smith said:

“Thank you Aunty for helping to shape the lives of so many via Māori performing arts over the years and for continually pushing us as performers to strive for nothing but par excellence as well as reminding us to enjoy and celebrate our unique culture through the teachings of the unique fabric and whakapapa that is 'Waihīrere'.

“Am forever grateful and fortunate to have been under your tutelage and guidance during my years at club and am absolutely elated to see that you are finally being recognised for the many tireless hours you have given to kapa haka and indeed the Tairāwhiti community over the years.”