Tokelau man’s royal honour
Serving the community
Cannons Creek resident Teaku Petaia has been awarded a Queen’s Service Medal for his commitment to the Tokelauan community and church.
Petaia is vice-president of the Atafu Community Group, which is based at Matauala Hall in Cannons Creek. He was president for almost 20 years.
He looks after Tokelauans at Pacific Islands Presbyterian Church in Cannons Creek.
‘‘Matauala Hall is a place for the people to come together. Community is very important to us,’’ Petaia said.
He said community and the church were defining features of Tokelauan culture.
The Atafu Community Group hosts barbecues, weddings and birthdays at Matauala Hall as a means of bringing together the Tokelauan community.
The three atolls that form the Tokelau Islands have a combined population of about 1400 people and there is a small but close-knit Tokelauan community in Porirua.
Atafu Community Group helps migrants from Tokelau adapt to life in New Zealand. The help those people received depended on what they needed most, said Petaia.
‘‘ I never dreamed I would receive such an award. I was in tears when I opened the letter.’’
Petaia modestly said he only did his best for his community.
He said he would like to see Tokelauans continue the hard work they do in Porirua, with one goal being a kindergarten near the Matauala Hall.
Two other Tokelauan community members from Porirua, Sila Taupe and Liua Lepaio, have received Queen’s Service Medals previously.
Atafu group president Les Tenise Atoni said Matauala Hall was a legacy of the work that was done by Tokelauan migrants in the 1960s.
‘‘We’re very keen on trying to reconnect young people with the language and the culture,’’ he said.
‘‘There are a number of other elders who also put a huge amount of work into this community.’’
Atoni said Teaku was nominated by the community for the work he did with Atafu group and with the church.
Teaku Petaia with a boat carved by Tokelau community members due for its maiden voyage in December.
– Teaku Petaia