Whai Ngata worked in Māori broadcasting at Radio New Zealand and Television New Zealand for 33 years. He started as a reporter, and rose to become TVNZ's general manager of Māori Programming from 1994 until his retirement in 2008. Ngata was named an Officer of the Order of New Zealand Merit in 2007.

Much of the revitalisation of Māori language and culture and its improved standing in Pākehā New Zealand has been the direct result of a handful of skilled, dedicated and passionate people like Whai. TVNZ Chief Executive Rick Ellis in the NZ Herald, 21 June 2008


1999 - 2008, Executive Producer


Rangatira: In the Blood / He Toto i Tuku iho - Donna Awatere-Huata

1998, Executive Producer - Television

This edition of the Rangatira series chronicles the colourful life of Donna Awatere-Huata: activist, opera singer, psychologist, businesswoman, author, Ngā Tama Toa member, ‘81 Tour protest leader, daughter of war hero-turned-murderer. Awatere-Huata’s decades of dedication to Māori causes, including the promotion of literacy and education programmes, are reflected upon by Dr Ranginui Walker, Sir Roger Douglas, Tame Iti and Hana Te Hemara. Filmed here debuting in parliament as an ACT MP, Awatere-Huata was later to be expelled from the party and convicted of fraud.


The New Zealand Wars - The War that Britain Lost (Episode One)

1998, Associate Producer - Television

This excerpt from the first episode of James Belich’s award-winning history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict examines growing Māori resentment following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The focus is on Ngā Puhi chief Hōne Heke, who sees few concessions to partnership. The refusal of the British to fly a Māori flag alongside the Union Jack particularly incenses him — and his celebrated acts of civil disobedience directed at this symbol of Imperial rule flying over the town Kororāreka (now Russell) lead to the outbreak of war in the north.


The New Zealand Wars - The East Coast Wars (Episode Five)

1998, Associate Producer - Television

This excerpt from the final part of James Belich's award-winning history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict focuses on Tūhoe prophet Rua Kēnana — the target of the last action of the New Zealand Wars in 1916 (73 years after hostilities began). He creates an independent community at Maungapōhatu in the Ureweras (complete with a remarkable meeting house). But any whiff of domestic dissent is intolerable for a government fighting a war overseas. Armed constabulary are sent to apprehend Rua on trumped up charges, with fatal results for two of his followers.


The New Zealand Wars - The Invasion of the Waikato (Episode Three)

1998, Associate Producer - Television

In this excerpt from James Belich's award-winning history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict, George Grey returns to the governorship in the wake of the costly Taranaki war. Now bitter, secretive and reluctant to share power, he talks peace while planning to strike at the heart of the King Movement in Waikato. As gunboats patrol the Waikato river and a great road is painstakingly built to take his army south, Grey fabricates plots and conspiracies, convincing London to send more troops and ships until the military balance of power tips in his favour.


The New Zealand Wars - Kings and Empires (Episode Two)

1998, Associate Producer - Television

In this excerpt from James Belich's award-winning history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict, tensions simmer in 1850s Taranaki and Waikato between land hungry settlers and Māori who don't want to sell. This resolve to retain their land results in, what is for Belich, "one of the most important developments in Māori political history" — the birth of the King Movement; but a new governor determined to reassert British authority exploits disunity between Māori factions and a disputed sale at Waitara culminates in "New Zealand's great civil war of the 1860s".


The New Zealand Wars - Taranaki Prophets (Episode Four)

1998, Associate Producer - Television

In this excerpt from James Belich's award-winning history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict, the focus returns to Taranaki, where the charismatic chief Tītokowaru had been promoting peace. But settler demands for land and confiscations exhaust his goodwill and he declares war. Vastly outnumbered, Titokowaru embarks on a devastatingly effective guerrilla campaign aimed at provoking his foes to attack him on his terms. As emotions rise, Tītokowaru's war escalates with the attack on Turuturumōkai Redoubt, an act of cannibalism, and his taunt "I shall not die ..."


The New Zealand Wars

1998, Assoc. Producer - Television

The New Zealand Wars was a five-part series detailing the history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict. It was presented by historian James Belich, who with his arm-waving zeal proved a convincing homegrown Simon Schama: "we don't need to look overseas for our Robin Hood, our Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, or Gandhi". The popular series reframed NZ history, and its stories of Hōne Heke, Governor Grey, Tītokowaru, Te Whiti, Von Tempsky and Te Kooti, easily affirmed Belich's conviction. The series won Best Documentary at the 1998 Qantas Media Awards.


Rangatira: Pita Sharples

1997, Executive Producer - Television

This edition of the Rangatira (‘chief’) series on Māori leaders, looks at academic and politician Dr Pita Sharples, a key figure of the Māori cultural renaissance. The future Māori Party co-leader visits his Takapau home, acknowledges his pivotal time at Te Aute College, talks candidly about the pressures his tireless schedule places on his whānau, demonstrates his cherished taiaha, and goes ten pin bowling. In extensive interviews he enthuses about realising the dream of kaupapa Māori (education, language, prison) cultures, and on the importance of kapa haka.


Mai Time

1996 - 2007, Executive Producer - Television

Mai Time was an influential magazine show for Māori youth, exploring te ao Māori and pop culture (it was one of the first shows to show local hip-hop), with presenters speaking in te reo and English. Running for 12 years, it began as a slot on Marae, then screened on Saturday mornings on TV2. Mai Time was a breeding ground for Māori television talent: launching the careers of Stacey Morrison (nee Daniels), Quinton Hita, Teremoana Rapley and others. It was the brainchild of Tainui Stephens, and was produced by Greg Mayor, then from 2004 by Anahera Higgins.


Radio Wha Waho

1993, Māori Language Consultant - Television

Radio Wha Waho was a pioneering bilingual sitcom about a rural iwi radio station that is close to collapse. Among characters talking back in te reo and getting up to antics on this Māori-style WKRP in Cincinnati are a smoothtalking DJ with delusions of being a ladykiller (a pre-Mrs Semisi Hori Ahipene); a young fireball who wants to graduate to a big station in the city (Greg Mayor, future star of Stewart Main short Twilight of the Gods); and Aunty Doss (Kath Akuhata-Brown), the heart and soul of the whole operation. Produced by TVNZ's Māori department.


Radio Wha Waho - First Episode

1993, Māori language consultant - Television

Radio Wha Waho was a pioneering bilingual sitcom about a down on its luck rural iwi radio station. The talkback in this Māori-style WKRP in Cincinnati is in te reo and english; the on-air crew include a DJ with delusions of being a ladykiller (a pre-Mrs Semisi Hori Ahipene); a young fireball seeking fame in the city (Greg Mayor); and Aunty Doss (Kath Akuhata-Brown), the heart and soul of the operation. In this first episode, directed by veteran Marae producer Derek Wooster, the station faces permanent silence after a DJ's late night talk causes offence.


Ngarimu V.C

1993, Executive Producer - Television

This documentary tells the story of Moana Ngārimu the sole soldier from the Māori Battalion to be awarded (posthumously) the Victoria Cross during WWII. On 26th March 1943, at Tebaga Gap in Tunisia, the Second Lieutenant took a key position and defended it (as well as injured men) overnight, before being killed in a counter-attack. He was 24. The doco was made for TVNZ for the 50th anniversary of his death. It looks at his life and features moving archive and interviews with Ngārimu's friends and family in Ruatoria, and battalion comrades. Presented by Wira Gardiner.


Māori Battalion - March to Victory

1990, Executive Producer - Television

Māori Battalion - March To Victory tells the story of the New Zealand Army's (28th) Māori Battalion that fought in campaigns during World War ll. Produced, directed and written by Tainui Stephens, the documentary tells the stories of five men who served with the unit. Narration (by actor George Henare), remembrances, visits to historic sites, archival footage, and graphic stills create a respectful and stirring screen testament to the men who fought in the Battalion.


Waka Huia - First Episode

1988, Programme Editor - Television

A 'waka huia' is traditionally a treasure box to hold the revered huia feather. Waka Huia the TV series records and preserves Māori culture and customs. The long-running series also covers social and political concerns of the day, taking a snapshot of Māori history. Waka Huia is seen as a taonga for future generations and is presented completely in te reo Māori. This first episode is about the language and its survival, and features groundbreaking TV interviews with Sir James Henare and Dame Mira Szaszy.


Te Karere

1982 - ongoing, Reporter, Editor, Presenter - Television

Te Karere is a long-running daily news programme in te reo Māori. Based in the TVNZ newsroom, Te Karere covers key events and stories in the Māori world as well as bringing a Māori perspective to the day's news. Significant for pioneering Māori news on mainstream TV, for two decades it has been a platform for Māori to comment on issues and events. Founded by Derek Fox, it first went to air during Māori Language Week in 1982 and it continues to screen in a changing broadcast landscape.



1980 - 1985, Reporter, Director - Television

Regular Māori programmes started on Television New Zealand in 1980 with Koha, a weekly, 30-min programme broadcast in English. It explored everything from social problems, tribal history, natural history, about weaponry, to the preparation of food, canoe history, carvings and their meanings, language and how it changed through time. It was a window into te ao Māori for Pākekā, and it provided a link to urban Māori estranged from their culture. It was the first regular Māori programme which was shown in prime time.