Wiparata Ngātoko: 04/12/1980 - 29/06/2018

Tauranga Moana is mourning the loss of a "leader and guiding light" as Wiparata Ngātoko has been laid to rest this week.

Friends and whānau farewelled the 37-year-old, of Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāi Te Rangi descent, who was well respected within the Māori, education and broadcasting communities.

Wiparata Ngātoko passed away at home in Tauranga on June 29, shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer of the kidney.

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His first cousin, Te Moanaroa Ngātoko, said there had been an overwhelming amount of support and respect shown by everyone who was touched by Wiparata Ngātoko.

He was born in Rotorua and raised in Tauranga, where he attended locals schools including Tauranga Boys College.

Wiparata Ngātoko was one of the first presenters on Mai Time, a television show for Māori youth, and had spent many years working at a local radio station, Moana Radio.

Broadcaster Stacey Morrison, who worked with Wiparata at Mai Time, told the Bay of Plenty Times: "I'm so sad to hear, and have been thinking of him and his whānau, so tragic for such a good-hearted man."

She said Wiparata was part of the new guard at Mai Time.

"Always smiling, funny and natural cheekiness, with a good heart. Sending my aroha to his whānau."

Te Moanaroa Ngātoko said education and the revitalisation of te reo Māori, tikanga Māori, the art of Māori weaponry and kapa haka were some of his cousin's passions in life.

Wiparata Ngātoko was dedicated to education and had influenced many young people in the region, where he had worked at a number of local schools including Tauranga Boys College when taking up a teaching role at the beginning of this year.

Principal Robert Mangan said staff and students, especially those in the school's Aronui whānau unit, of which Wiparata was an old boy, were shocked by his death.

"We were looking forward to utilising his wisdom, knowledge and talent at the college in te reo, kaupapa Māori, tikanga Māori, and Māori performing arts," Mangan said.

"He will be remembered as a young man with huge potential who was never given the time he deserved to fully realise his talents. Our thoughts and condolences are with his whānau."

Labour MP Jan Tinetti, who was principal of Merivale School during the two years Wiparata worked at the school, said his death came as a huge shock.

"I can't quite believe it."

She said he was a kaiāwhina (teacher aide) at Merivale and did his teacher training after his time there.

"But it was always obvious that he had huge potential to go teaching. His commitment to Te Ao Māori was second to none," Tinetti said.

"His passing really is a shocking loss to Tauranga Moana as he had so much more to give.

"His journey had only just started."

Wiparata Ngātoko was a leader in many prominent kapa haka groups including Ngāti Ranginui and Tauranga Boys College, where the group was travelling to Palmerston North this week to perform in the National Kapa Haka Competition.

"It's a huge loss, he was a leader and guiding light," Te Moanaroa Ngātoko said.

Wiparata Ngātoko lay in state at Huria Marae before being taken to his final resting place on Motuōpae Island.

He was survived by his wife, Natalie, and their four children. Through his whānau, his legacy will live on, Te Moanaroa Ngātoko said.