Sir Collin Tukuitonga “overwhelmed” after being knighted a companion of the NZ Order of Merit
From humble beginnings at Togalupo to helping the Pacific communities in Aotearoa New Zealand, Sir Collin Fonotau Tukuitonga has continued to be a pillar of excellence and leadership with a serving heart for his people.
And just last Friday an investiture ceremony was held at the government house in Auckland where Sir Collin Tukuitonga, along with seven others, were appointed the Knighthood Companion of the New Zealand Merit of Order (KNZM) by New Zealand’s Governor General Her Excellency The Rt Hon. Dame Cindy Kiro.
BCN News spoke with Sir Tukuitonga this morning via Zoom who shared how completely overwhelmed he was when he received the honour.
“I was overwhelmed. The governor general is someone that I’ve known professionally for many years and she was talking to me, congratulating me but I didn’t really hear what she was saying because I was overwhelmed and I started to cry.”
“It was just overwhelming. It was like when my first child was born. It completely overwhelms you. I thought about my family, I thought about Niue, and my beginnings in Togalupo. It was a momentous occasion,” says Sir Tukuitonga.
Sir Collin Tukuitonga was nominated in May this year and after accepting his nomination he was informed in June on the weekend of the Queen’s birthday that he was appointed the knighthood companion.
Sir Tukuitonga told BCN News that as much as he wanted to hold his investiture ceremony in Niue, he was grateful to have received such an honour and hopes to hold a special celebration on the island in the near future.
“I really wanted to have this investiture ceremony in Niue. So I wrote to the government house saying that this is important to me and my family and for Niue. I’d like the ceremony conducted in Niue.
“They wrote back and said that the government general had no immediate plans to go to Niue until October next year and given I have some personal health issues that need to be sorted and I decided really I couldn’t wait until October. It was too far away. So I decided to have the ceremony in Auckland at a time when it was offered by the government house,” says Sir Tukuitonga.
Sir Collin Tukuitonga is known as the third Niuean to receive a knighthood but the first Niuean in New Zealand for his services in public health and community both in Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific.
First being Sir Robert Rex in 1984 and second to Sir Toke Talagi in 2017, both who were well-respected premiers of Niue.
When asked about his advice for upcoming young leaders and those who are specialising in the field of public health, he said to show up and do your best everyday.
“Concentrate on what you want to do, surround yourself with people that support you and believe in what you are doing, whether it is public health, education, or sports.”
“As I keep saying to people, if this old guy can be acknowledged in this way I am confident that many of our young Niueans would do the same.”
“My advice is wake up, get out of bed, put on a smile on your face, dress nicely, show up and do the work. People will recognise your good deeds,” says Sir Tukuitonga.
Sir Collin Tukuitonga in his various roles and major titles is well-known for being the Director of Public Health, one of the first Pacific founders for the Pacific health clinic known as The Fono, and established the Auckland University Department of Māori and Pacific Health.
He is also the inaugural Associate Dean (Pacific) for the university’s Faculty of Medical and Health Science.
He has contributed immensely to the continuous improvement of the health and welfare of Pacific and Niue communities in New Zealand.
Sir Collin Tukuitonga is grateful for all the congratulatory messages and kindness that he has received in the past week.