Dame Anne Salmond's life-long work to improve "intercultural understanding" between Māori and Pākehā has been recognised with the prestigious Blake medal.
Salmond - a leading social scientist, communicator, author and conservationist - was presented the award during the annual Blake Awards ceremony in Auckland on Thursday night, in honour of sailing legend Sir Peter Blake.
"Dame Anne Salmond is one New Zealand's most outstanding leaders and trail-blazers," CEO James Gibson said.
"Her life-long study of Māori culture, and her efforts to improve intercultural understanding between Māori and Pākehā has improved New Zealanders' understanding of their own history.
"And her commitment to communicating the environmental challenges we face, including climate change, freshwater and ocean health, is a legacy we all benefit from."
The ceremony also recognised six Blake Leaders in te reo Māori champion Scotty Morrison, young women advocate Fran McEwen, entrepreneur Michael Marr, indigenous rights advocate Dr Chris Tooley, student leader Benjamin Burrow and sailing and marine advocate Professor Mark Orams.
Gisborne-born-and-raised Salmond has had a lifelong engagement with te ao Māori, working alongside kuia and kaumātua and writing papers, reports and prize-winning books.
She's conducted research and taught at the University of Auckland, where she is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Māori Studies, and in recent years turned her mind to conservation, establishing the Waikereru Ecosanctuary near Gisborne with husband Jeremy.
"There's always unfinished business, and there's always another adventure around the corner," Salmond said.
Rotorua-born Morrison has been committed to ensuring what was a fragile and endangered language was accessible, working to bring te reo into mainstream media, and common everyday use across Aotearoa.
Morrison, a broadcaster and presenter on a range of shows including Marae and Te Karere, is well known for giving his time and energy not only to those who are keen to learn te reo but those who feel disconnected from the language and culture, Māori and non-Māori.
He's written numerous bestselling language guides and recently presented the series Origins, which covers the stories of where Māori came from.
On leadership Morrison says: "I think you lead by your actions and you just put your work out there, and that's how you lead."
New Zealand had come a long way with te reo, but there was a long way to go, he said.
He hoped to see te reo become the first language of choice for the majority of people.
"In three to four generations time, I'd love it to be part of the fabric in Aotearoa.
"That's the dream."
Professor Mark Orams has been named a 2020 Blake leader. Photo / Supplied
Orams, a "sailing professor", had actually sailed with Sir Peter, and was so inspired by his leadership style, he wrote a book about it so others could learn from his example.
His love of sailing and surfing inspired a passion to protect the sea and its wildlife, and he has turned his career of international success in sailing into one of science and study - achievements that have also attracted international recognition.
In 2010, Orams co-founded and became chairman of the International Coastal and Marine Tourism, and he also serves on the Sustainability Commission for World Sailing.
In a time of rapid environmental deterioration that could start feeling overwhelming, Orams said it was youth that gave him hope for the future.
"It fills me with hope when I meet young people who don't have that sort of cynicism that comes with age.
"They have this optimism of youth and looking forward, and a sense of 'we can make a difference'."
text by Michael Neilson, NZ Herald