A love for her culture, church and sport has been the driving force behind Vaine Arai Areora’s desire to serve her community for many decades in Aotearoa.
It is the many hours of energy and passion poured into Church and sporting activities which earned her a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s Honors’ list, for services to the Cook Islands community and sport.
The Rarotongan-born Vaine is one of 12 children.
Her father is a Tahitian from Mahina known as Matua; and her mother Abera Sadaraka Arai has many links to the Cook Islands.
“It is fascinating for us today to know about our parents and their genealogies, which tell us where we come from and who we are, and for us to be proud who we really are,” Vaine says.
Vaine was adopted out to her mum’s sister Tuangaru and her partner Ben Revatai, as they had no children.
In 1949, Vaine moved to New Zealand with her adopted parents, and attended Beresford Street School and Seddon Memorial Technical College.
Her parents were elders in Newton’s Pacific Islanders Congregational Church (PICC) , which Vaine says provided a foundation for everything she did growing up, including sport, youth club, culture groups and becoming church elders.
The proud Cook Islander first became involved with volunteer work for the Cook Islands community in Auckland during the 1950s.
Vaine assisted the Cook Island Sports Association from the 1950s; and in the 1960s she served on the Executive Committee of the PICC Netball Club and the Cook Islands Sports Club.
The following decade, she coached and played for Manukau Netball Club, when Vaine and her late husband Takau Areora - also a great leader who held various roles in the Cook Islands sporting community - organised a rugby and netball tour to Rarotonga in 1974.