Mention Henare O’Keefe and there would be only a few people who wouldn’t know his name. Even more so if you live in Hastings .
Be it at an event representing Hastings as the City’s Ambassador, mentoring youth at the Flaxmere Boxing Academy, to even opening a petanque court, Henare’s actions spread a message: Be loud and proud; you live in Hastings.
Henare loves what he does, and the people he meets every day. At any occasion, if Henare is invited, he will be there. He’s often leaving one event for the next, ready to bring his passion, humour and voice to uplift a crowd, often alongside his grandsons inspiring those present through music and song.
Henare says he is” a man of the people and sees what he does as an absolute privilege”
Over the years, being a Hastings Councillor representing his beloved Paharakeke, Flaxmere, Henare has advocated for his community, from hikois to calendars, community gardens to street BBQs, Henare lives and breathes Hastings. As he said in a recent interview “ I love this place, Hastings”.
When it comes to social media, many of Henare’s generation may not bother, but jump on Henares social page to see just how he embraces “The Facebook”. Through video and music, Henares followers are taken along on his day-to-day activities seeing the extent of how passionate he is for people, relationships and community.
But how about the poetry?
Henare will often use words to inspire, such as from famous poets like George Bernard Shaw, whose words, as he says, from 100 years ago are still relevant even today. But he is a poet at heart, using words in a way that people he speaks with want to hear, and enjoy listening too.
In a recent TV interview, the reporter ended by saying “City Ambassador? How about Henare for President of New Zealand - Maybe a new role in the future is calling.”
So, to Henare, we say, ngā mihi, thank you. Hastings is louder and prouder than ever before thanks to your work.
“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no "brief candle" for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations”
George Bernard Shaw.