Wonderful wahine: Celebrating at last Friday's Kuma Maori Business Awards in Invercargill are, from left, Hud Rapata, John Clark, Blue Kanu owner Karen Hattaway and Check In Ltd founders Karmela and Maria Rapata


Queenstown businesswomen came up trumps at last Friday’s Kuma Maori Business Awards.

Established in 2005, Te Kupeka Umaka Maori ki Araiteuru’s the Maori business network for Otago-Southland, aiming to bring Maori business people together to enhance their individual success through collective support.

At the awards dinner in Invercargill a surprise award — the Puna Pakihi recognition of achievement award — was presented to Blue Kanu owner Karen Hattaway, while Check
In Ltd, a Whakatipu concierge service, won the collaboration and innovation award.

While Blue Kanu was a finalist in the employment and growth category, the Puna Pakihi award was voted on and presented by the Ngai Tahu runanga to recognise Hattaway’s
contribution to the Whakatipu business sector over the past 25 years, her leadership and entrepreneurial qualities.

Originally from Gore, Hattaway’s called Queenstown home since ’96, where she’s focused on the hospo industry — she and former business partner/hubby Grant Hattaway owned
Captains and Pier 19, both now sold, and opened Blue Kanu seven years ago.

Hattaway says she had no idea she was being recognised.

‘‘We’re absolutely delighted — it’s just out of the blue and for us, I put that completely to the Blue Kanu whanau working hard and implementing the vision.

‘‘I’m so, so proud of these guys and just holding tight when there has been just such adversity.

‘‘It’s lovely to get such a beautiful accolade, we’re just very, very honoured and grateful.’’

Judges said her commitment to Maori businesswomen’s professional development and excellence was of particular note.

Hattaway says she’d like to see more funding going towards wahine — ‘‘that’s not just Maori, that’s every woman’’ — at executive levels to help them further their education.

She’s also trying to work particularly with young Maori to create pathways for them in the
hospo sector.

Hattaway says she’s also thrilled Check In Ltd, founded by sisters Maria and Karmela Rapata last July, was recognised in Invercargill.

The company curates experiences, services and connections for visitors and hosts, combining motivations of visitors and the community to create more meaningful experiences.

Karmela says they’re ‘‘extremely honoured to take this one home’’.

‘‘It speaks to who we are, aligns with our values and recognises the work we have done to date, and will support our initiatives moving forward.’’

Hattaway: ‘‘I think it’s just wonderful to see our young women doing so well in these start-up businesses and being fearless when it comes to owning and operating a business in such diverse and tricky times.

‘‘I remember when they did it and I’m like, ‘full credit to you guys, you’re completely nuts and I love it’.

‘‘That’s what we need — the courage to go ahead and do that and go, ‘nah, it’s going to be a success’.’’

Meanwhile Hawea’s Niche Design and Construction, owned by Kawhata and Amy Williams, won the Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter employment and growth award.