President of the Atafu Tokelau Community Group Les Lehi Tenise Atoni was awarded a New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the Tokelau community.
Les Lehi Tenise Atoni is President of the Atafu Tokelau Community and is pictured here with Dame Susan Glazebrook at his investiture ceremony on 14 September 2022. Dame Susan was standing in for Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro who is in London for the Queen's funeral.
“Behind this person here stands a whole lot of people that have a passion for their country, for our mahi, for the vision to better ourselves as a community here in New Zealand.”
Les received was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the Tokelau community for this with the Tokelau community. He led the development of the Atafu Tokelau Community Group the first organisational strategic plan, ‘Te Kanava’, through which they developed a Tokelau Language application, hosted meetings with the Administrator of Tokelau on supporting developments in Tokelau, hosted community engagements in partnership with government organisations, and successfully campaigned for government support to develop Gagana Tokelau and Vagahau Niue languages as NCEA subjects.
He is also the Co-Project Leader for the Tokelau Kaiga Wellbeing Strategic Plan; a founding member of the Tokelau Wellington Leadership Group, who introduced the Tokelau Language Week events; and part of the Tokelau Governance Group.
Speaking to radio station 531pi about the honour, Les said it reflected the legacy and work of many people who have a passion for their community.
"The honour further acknowledges the work of our tupuna or forefathers who came to this great country in the 50s, 60s and 70s. It's really a time of reflection for me personally, for their legacy, their pioneering and what we have today," said Les.
"So we're talking about the Tokelau migration, and we're talking about me as president of Atafu-Tokelau community, reflecting on that hard work. They not only came to better their lives, but also to support the families back home.
"So it's all those things, combined with honoring my family for allowing me to serve my community. It's about our membership, our committee, past and present, for their work, because behind this person here stands a whole lot of people that have a passion for their country, for our mahi, for the vision to better ourselves as a community here in New Zealand," he said.