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Willie Apiata raises staggering amount for cyclone-ravaged East Coast
The Good Stuff
The Good Stuff

Willie Apiata raises staggering amount for cyclone-ravaged East Coast

Not all heroes wear capes.

Willie Apiata is a man who understands the importance of giving back to his community.

At just 13 years old, he worked tirelessly to build stone baskets during the recovery effort after a natural disaster. Today, 35 years later, he is once again leading a fundraising effort to support the recovery of SH 35, a highway that runs through the East Coast of the North Island which was heavily impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle earlier this year.

For New Zealand's only living Victoria Cross recipient, the desire to help is not just ingrained in his personal history, but in his ancestry and character as well. 

He auctioned off significant items, including Queen Elizabeth II's funeral program and unique artwork featuring his horses, raising a staggering $220,000 for the cause. Apiata believes that raising money is about giving back to the region that raised him since he was seven years old.

"This is for a really good cause, and that's what it's about - our people," Apiata told 1News

"They looked after me as a young boy, and my family, but they are the iwi. They have built and forged relationships with every single person on the East Coast.

"We must keep looking there until they are back in the place where they find some sort of peace, and their livelihoods are back to thriving and succeeding as we would want them." 

Since the devastation, he has returned to the affected communities helping to clear a path through blocked roads as well as fundraising.

"Mobility and long-range patrols is what I am pretty good at," Apiata said.

"I hopped in my trusty Hilux - my old Toyota - loaded it with bread, 50 or 60 loaves of milk, lollies for the kids and as many gas bottles as I could tie to the back of my truck."