Six men and one woman were recognized by the Niue government for excellence in their fields including three men recognized for their acts of bravery in this year’s National Honours Awards.
The awards were presented by Premier Hon. Dalton Tagelagi in this third year of the national awards. There are three different awards and the members of the public are encouraged to place their nominations for the awards.
A long-serving representative for the village of Liku, Hon Pokotoa Ikiua Lalotoa Sipeli is this year’s recipient of the highest honour. “The Government of Niue (GON), on Saturday, 17 September 2022 in Sydney, Australia awarded The Distinguished Cross to Hon. Pokotoa Ikiua Lalotoa Sipeli for his dedication and lifetime services to the people of Niue. Hon. Sipeli has continued to serve Niue for the last 62 years, with 32 years in the Niue Public Service in the Education sector and 30 years and counting as a Member of the Niue Legislative Assembly for the Constituency of Liku. During this time, he significantly contributed to imparting knowledge, shaping the minds, and inspiring many Niuean children who are now leaders. Hon. Sipeli is a great mentor to many current and past politicians, a great listener and communicator, and a man with a big heart, presence, and a great sense of humour. For this reason, he was awarded the Distinguished Cross Medal, an honour bestowed on him for his many years of outstanding service to the people and nation of Niue.”
COMMUNITY SERVICE STARS
Sergeant Albert Tasmania, Mr. Launoa Gataua and Mr. Robert Rex Jnr
In a special addition to this year’s Honours Awards, the government recognized three men for their ‘acts of bravery worthy of recognition’.
“These decorations are awarded in respect of the selfless act of courage and valor these young men took, placing themselves in danger during a search and recovery incident at sea back in 2019. At the risk of losing their own lives, they volunteered for the recovery of one of our own people who was taken too soon. The weather that day was extremely tumultuous with the forecast discouraging marine folk from venturing close to the sea. These men went above and beyond what would have been expected of any individual and displayed outstanding courage involving extraordinary seamanship skills in very difficult conditions.”
BCN News was told by sources close to the men that they were reluctant to accept the accolades and that it took several attempts to convince them to accept the awards.
In all the major sea rescues attempted by these three men over the past three years, local fisherman and restaurateur Robert Rex Jnr piloted his own fishing boat to all the rescues and recovery missions in very rough storm conditions and was commended by the families and the people he helped.
Launoa Gataua was a reluctant hero, according to sources close to the family, Mr Gataua who is the Principal Fisheries Officer was reluctant to accept the award because he felt that he was doing his job. He was also thinking about the many other rescues he had taken part in that he felt for the families especially those families who lost loved ones. A similar predicament for Sergeant Albert Tasmania who was at the flag raising ceremonty to work and after the awards ceremony returned to work.
The other recipient of the Community Star award went to Tupuna and historian from Hakupu. According to the government Mr Tanaki was nominated for the Community Service Star recognising his value for his shared knowledge and teaching of the Vagahau Niue as well as translating and interpreting and his contribution to the Niue Dictionary and other Niue literature. Mr. Tanaki started his career as a school teacher at Tuatea Primary School, he trained to be a pastor and served as the resident Pastor for Liku from 1970 to 1972 when he changed careers and joined the Department of Education as a Vagahau Niue teacher from 1973-1992. He was part of the original team for the Niue Dictionary and we are
grateful for the mammoth legacy they left behind for us and future generations. Not many people have the knowledge and skills to lecture Vagahau Niue at University level but Mr. Tanaki can emphatically state that he is indeed one of a very few elite Niueans who is still living and fulfilling many of his elders wishes and dreams of offering such a course for the improvement of our peoples Vagahau Niue.”
PUBLIC SERVICE MEDALS
Two former educators were the recipients of the Public Service Medals this year.
Mrs Fakahula Funaki-
The government recognized the services of “Mrs Fakahulahetoa Mitimeti Funaki affectionately known as Nena Hula was a dedicated mainstay and anchor of the Department of Education for nearly 5 decades.
As teacher and later in the department as a Vagahau Niue Specialist. In 1991 she was part of a team of 6 to commence work on Niue’s first dictionary Tohi Vagahau Niue to be researched and compiled by Niueans, the bilingual Tohi Vagahau Niue was finally launched in 1997. In 2014, Nena Hula was appointed as a member of both the Niue Language Commission and Taoga Niue Council. Nena Hula also walked her talk and has authored many stories, poetry and songs. Nena Hula has dedicated her life to educating generations of Niuean, many whom have gone on to hold high positions in the public service and others in high positions in New Zealand, Australia and even England. It is a huge achievement in a teacher’s lifetime to witness your student becoming valuable and productive individuals contributing to Niue’s nation building.”
Hon. Atapana Siakimotu –
The government recognies “Atapana Siakimotu devoted some 45 years of his life in serving the people of Niue in one form of another. The public service medal is in recognition of his contribution towards the Department of Education as a teacher, School Principal and later the Director of Education. It is also for his role as the Consular General for Niue from 1997 until the Niue Consulate Office in Auckland closed in 2001, his service as the Speaker to the Niue Assembly from 2002 until 2011 and finally, the Chairmanship of the Niue Public Service from 2015 to 2018. Mr Siakimotu was not one for accolades but his contribution to Niue is unquestioned. His commitment to serve his island and his people was unwavering. It is important to note that Mr Siakimotu accepted this award prior to his passing. His award will be presented to his family upon their return to Niue to lay him to rest.”
BCN News understands that Atapana during his tenure as Speaker of the Niue Legislative Assembly, Hon. Siakimotu hosted the inaugural Niue Youth Parliament in 2009 and was the Pacific Region’s Champion for the Youth at the time.
Since the start of the National Honours Awards in October 2020, men are recognized more with twelve awards and with five women, one medal was awarded posthumously.
According to the government statement ‘before submitting for an award, nominators must contact the Premier’s Department first’.