Haka exponent and businessman Wetini Mitai-Ngatai has been inducted into this year’s New Year's Honours List for his services to Māori performing arts. He is known for taking his haka group Te Matarae i o Rehu to two national titles and running his Māori tourism business, Mitai Māori Village.
Mitai-Ngātai says, “I was shocked when I heard it was one of my nannies who had submitted my name forward.”
Mitai-Ngātai is an internationally renowned kapa haka exponent who has been dedicated to revolutionizing Māori performing arts.
“I am getting older, so I feel its right that I give others in my team a go at taking the reins. I've always had that feeling because I feel much wiser now.
Mitai-Ngatai was involved with a number of cultural groups prior to 1994 when he established his own group Te Mātārae I Ōrehu. Taking out two national titles and a five-time male leader award winner.
“However, my body still feels the same but my wife says, "don't continue performing and then you've realized you're too old and then it's time to hang up your maro."
He and his wife Lara Northcroft recently opened a drop-in center in the city of Rotorua to help feed the less fortunate.
“This project is going well. We've just started and I tell it's not an easy task because there are so many families that are struggling here and they don't have an income. Hence why we're here to help.”
“My wife is the one who's truly involved in this project. It's meaningful at the same time with others from the community coming in to help. So we found a place which has all the resources required to run the programme and feed the multitudes.”
As he turns sixty this year he's also into his new line of work, writing up the next Kairākau series with the inclusion of Tuhoe ancestors like Te Purewa.
“I was very fortunate enough to speak to some Tūhoe historians about our ancestors, so far they've agreed on certain stories such as Te Rama Apakura and my ancestor Tionga. So I'm still in the process of writing up the series.”
He still runs his tourism business, Mitai Māori Village in Rotorua since its establishment in 2002. He still has more than 100 people employed which provides opportunities for the youth.