Poroporoaki: Whai Ngata

Haere rā e hika, haere atu Tanara Whairiri Ngata i te huanui, i te ara kua papatauria e te tapuwae kauika tangata. Hoki atu koe ki ngā mātua tīpuna, ki tōu maunga tapu a Hikurangi e tiaki ana mai ngā raukura kua ngaro atu ki te pō, hoki atu koe ki te awa e rere atu a Te Waiapū. Moe mai rā e te rangatira.

The Māori Party mourns the passing of pioneering broadcaster Whai Ngata, former head of TVNZ’s Māori and Pacific programming.

“Much of the Māori programming we have seen on our screens in the last thirty-six years bears his imprint”, says Māori Party Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

He was initially involved with Koha, a thirty minute weekly programme, mostly in English, which signalled the start of regular Māori programming in 1980. In February 1983, Te Karere premiered on our screens, hosted by Whai Ngata and Derek Fox. 

“It was our first regular Māori-language news programme, introducing a daily measure of te reo rangatira into New Zealand homes. It became a precious contribution towards the preservation, protection and revitalisation of Māori language”, says Mr Flavell.

At the end of 1986, Ernie Leonard recruited Whai Ngata to start up TVNZ’s Māori department which as part of its mission, sought to build up the experience of Māori producers and directors.  With Department of Māori Affairs help, TVNZ established a training programme, Kimihia, which targeted Māori for producer training. A year later in 1987, the Māori Affairs Department, the Ministry of Education and TVNZ established the reo-only, hour-long magazine programme Waka Huia

“The intention of Waka Huia was to preserve the reo and cultural knowledge of our pakeke. Today we are blessed with the gift of the views from that time”, says Māori Party co-leader, Marama Fox.  

“Whai was always committed to preserving an archive of hapū and iwi life for future generations. As a mokopuna of Sir Apirana Ngata, Whai understood the immense value of capturing our stories and heritage for evermore. Just as important as his documentary archives was his commitment and devotion to the next generation of Māori broadcasters. We carry a debt of honour to Whai for the inspiration and support he mobilised to recruit and train the successors to his legacy.”

He is distinguished by a 40 year career in journalism, having also served at the Auckland Star and Radio New Zealand before his debut on TV screens. Whai Ngata headed the Māori Unit at TVNZ until his retirement in 2008, becoming General Manager of Māori and Pacific Programmes TVNZ, and was named an officer of the Order of NZ Merit in 2007. He also completed the English-Māori Dictionary which his father and scholar Hori Ngata dedicated much of his lifetime to collating. The ‘Ngata’ dictionary is a standard textbook for Māori language students today.

“Our love and heartfelt sympathies are extended to his mother, his wife Geraldine and all his whānau as they gather in Ruatōrea on the East Coast to celebrate and mourn a mighty mentor in the Māori broadcasting industry, and a devoted son of Ngāti Porou and Te Whānau-a-Apanui,” says Mr Flavell.