One of New Zealand rugby league's hard men is departing the Bay but not before he will be honoured for his countless contributions to the community.

Kevin Tamati is leaving his role as co-ordinator of Hawke's Bay Community Action Youth and Drugs (CAYAD) to take up a business opportunity in Australia.

Mr Tamati will be presented with a red-dyed flax cloak to represent his status as a kahukura, a valued leader in the community, at a ceremony on Wednesday.

Event organiser Dennis O'Reilly said Mr Tamati's contribution would be impossible to measure.

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"Over the last decade since his return from England he has made an outstanding contribution to Hawke's Bay."

Mr O'Reilly said that "KT" just wanted to slip away with out any fuss, as was his modest way. However it was important, as encouragement to others, that his contributions over the last decade be acknowledged.

These contributions included the establishment and continued running of the Puawaitanga Maori Sports Academy, his role as the Ngati Kahungunu tribal representative on Sport Hawke's Bay, and the use of this position to leverage up the buy-in of codes to harm-reducing drug and alcohol policies.

Mr O'Reilly said his leadership of Hawke's Bay Rugby League, his work supporting the E Tu Whanau movement to counter domestic violence, and the staunch support to "complex crews" had been invaluable. Mr Tamati said that he was looking forward to starting his new adventure with his new partner and their new property investment business.

He would miss getting out there and interacting with the community, though. He had been heavily involved with local youth who were battling the influence of drugs and alcohol.

He said that as a non-drinker and non-smoker, it was a real eye-opener for him to see so many kids who thought there was no other path to take.

While the problem may not have improved, awareness had.

"I've seen more people understanding concerns around drugs and alcohol," he said.

The 22-test Kiwi won a professional contract to play in the United Kingdom in 1982.

"It was a whole different lifestyle to what I grew up in," he said.

Raising a family in England while playing professional footy had been a highlight in his life.

He is perhaps best known for the infamous sideline brawl with Greg Dowling.

"When I get introduced to new people, for clarification they want to know are you THE Kevin Tamati?"

"It happened, it's part of history, Greg and I aren't bosom buddies but we get on with life. It hasn't held me back in any way shape or form."

Mr Tamati said he wanted to be remembered as a player who was worthy of 22 test caps, not just for his stoush with Dowling.

- The ceremony for Mr Tamati will be in front of the Bluewater Hotel, Ahuriri, starting at 6pm on Wednesday.