A diverse crowd gathered in Ahuriri last night to remember the achievements of Kevin Tamati in his life, and what he had helped achieve in others.
Mr 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.
As the chairman of Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated, Ngahiwi Tomoana, said, Mr Tamati was no ordinary man.
His contributions to the Bay 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.
In front of a crowd of about 60, Mr Tomoana said to Mr Tamati: "You have risen to respectable heights of the iwi, you have climbed to the top and become a role model of your whanau, hapu, iwi, and your country."
MC Dennis O'Reilly introduced the members of iwi, hapu, and those helped by Mr Tamati to talk of how he had shaped their lives.
Napier City councillor Maxine Boag said: "Our loss is [Australia's] gain."
To Mr Tamati she said: "What you've done through rugby league has made such a difference in some challenged communities."
To recognise his status as a kahukura, a valued leader in the community, Mr Tamati was presented with a pake kahukura (red-dyed flax cloak) by Taape Tareha-O'Reilly.
The man of the hour was visibly moved by the ceremony.
He said: "It's been a wonderful journey getting involved with the community, and working with the community - that's been the reward for me."
Mr Tamati said he had tried to help youth to realise they had the drive and potential to achieve their dreams.
Some of these were boys from Hastings Intermediate School rugby league team who performed a haka for Mr Tamati, and later created a line to give Mr Tamati a hongi.