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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Friday, July 06, 2007

Modest VC winner thanks supporters

Our newest Victoria Cross winner is thanking New Zealanders for the support they have given him since the award was announced.

35-year-old Willy Apiata, a corporal in the Special Air Services, won the highest medal for bravery for carrying an injured comrade to safety through enemy fire in Afghanistan in 2004.

The softly-spoken warrior met the media at the SAS compound in Papakura today.

He says he was just doing his job, drawing on the training he has received throughout his army career.

Corporal Apiata says he has received a huge number of messages and emails this week.

"The support that I've got from our fellow kiwis, just people here, not just here but offfshore as well. The support has been immense. My aroha goes out to them and I thank them for all their support," he says.

Corporal Apiata says he's taking things one day at a time, but he's looking forward to taking his medal back home to Te Kaha some time soon.

Corporal Apiata's citation


Treaty claims can improve the health of the community.

That was a point made by Kathrine Clark, the head of Auckland regional Maori public health organisation Hapai Te Hauora Tapui, to this week's Public Health Association conference.

She says health planners often neglect to talks to many in the community who can make valuable contributions, including educationalists, business people, and especially those working for iwi and hapu on Treaty of Waitangi claims.

"They are some of the people who are considering not only the economic benefits for their whanau but they are also thinking of the social and environmental and the cultural elements of the claim process. That is exactly what public health is about, so when we are wanting to work with Maori, we should consider who all of those players are," Ms Clark says.

Health agencies also need to develop good relationships with kuia and kaumatua so they can identify community leaders.


Te Puni Kokiri's chief executive says Maori will be an important part of making Auckland a vibrant international city.

Leith Comer was in Tamaki Makaurau for this weekend's Atamira... Maori in the City expo at the ASB Showgrounds.

It's a showcase of Maori in business, arts and music, with exhibits, a business forum and free concerts.

Mr Comer says Maori are assuming an increasingly important role in regional and national development.

He says because Auckland is the largest centre of Maori population, it's important they help plan the city's future.

"If Auckland is going to be a first class city, Maori have to be involved in the economic engine room, developing the sould of the city and the face of the city, and so events like this are a forerunner of making Maori a vital part of the way Auckland emerges," Mr Comer says.

Atamira runs until Sunday.


Health researcher Papaarangi Reid has been named this year's Public Health Champion.

The Public Health Association says the Maori dean of Auckland University's medical and health sciences faculty has used exceptional research skills and advocacy to highlight disparities between the health of Maori and non-Maori.

In doing so the Te Rarawa woman helped make Maori health a national priority.

Dr Reid says everything in public health is done by team or succession of people, so her award needs to be shared.

She says Maori have been on an incredibly journey in health in the 20 years she has worked in the sector.

"We can remember when smoking on marae was commonplace and there were big cigarette containers in the middle of wharenui, and now we have smoke free marae almost every single one, and how far we have come. Sometimes we still go on about some of the statistics, but actually we have been on a huge journey and we need to congratulate ourselves on the big changes we've made," Dr Reid says.


A central North Island Maori trust is helping Maori in small rural communities enter the information age.

Tuaropaki Trust owns businesses ranging from farms to geothermal power stations to a satellite broadband company.

Tony Hill from Tuaropaki Communications says the state of existing networks means many places can't get copper wire-based broadband services.

He says satellite is ideal for such communities as Whangara on the East Coast, where the movie Whalerider was shot.

"They have a satellite dish and also they have wireless off the back of the satellite dish. Simple applications like internet banking. You don't have to travel an hour to your local bank. They can talk to anyone in the country as if they were in a major centre, so they're not disadvantaged at all by living in living in a rural situation," Mr Hill says.


New Zealand's news Victoria Cross winner says he was just doing his job.

Willy Apiata became the first New Zealander since the second world war to win a Victoria Cross when he carried a wounded comrade across open ground to safety during a clash in Afghanistan in 2004.

The Special Air Service corporal says it was what he was trained for.

"Throughout my entire career in the army, in the defence force, we're taught the ethos and values of being in a family environment in that sort of family, and they train us for different situations that may occur in our lives and out careers and they best prepare us for them, and I just done my job," Corporal Apiata says.

He has always looked up to past Victoria Cross winners.

Three other SAS members won gallantry medals for action in Afghanistan, but they are not being named in line with the service's tradition.


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