The Aotearoa Māori Tennis Championships are being held in Rotorua for the first time since 1995.

Māori tennis players of all ages, from all over New Zealand, and some from Australia, will play at the Rotorua Tennis Club, Lynmore Tennis Club and Rotorua Girls' High School courts on December 27-30.

Rotorua was actually the birth place of the tournament, in 1926, when Sir Apirana Ngata and his friends Taipōrutu Mitchell, Pei Te Hurinui Jones and Tukere Te Anga formed the inaugural New Zealand Māori Lawn Tennis Association (NZMLTA).

Māori Tennis president Dick Garratt said the beauty of the tournament was that they were many multi-generational families involved.


"The last few years we've had about 125-150 people and includes a wide range of divisions from under-10 all the way through to 76-plus," Garratt said.

"Most of them are all competitive club players, they play for their clubs throughout New Zealand - we also have a few players from Australia and two from America. The open men's and women's are always a pretty good skill level."

He said there was a great, social atmosphere at the tournament each year.

"Our strength is around whanaungatanga, which is family bonding and building together families, hapu and iwi. People come together as one and you don't get that same atmosphere at non-Māori tournaments.

"It's very important to have Māori sports tournament, for Māori to stand on their own two feet. It's important for the wellbeing of our people through the game of tennis, it also enhances the game in New Zealand in general when Māori are playing the game.

"There are families with three generations all playing in the tournament. Dennis Mohi, from Rotorua, is the current senior champion and his daughters and grandchildren all play as well. There are many others like that."

Rotorua's Leona Davis-Kaye, who has won multiple age-group titles at the tournament, was on the organising committee the last time it was held in Rotorua and is on it again this year. She said the event was a great way for Māori whanau to get together during the festive period. She will be playing in the women's 50-59 division again this year.

"What I've always enjoyed about this tournament is family coming together. Families who love tennis can play in the same sport and it's just about bringing Māori families together to celebrate the sport.


"It's very special to bring it back to Rotorua this year. We were definitely eager to get it back here and revitalise it a bit and get people from this side of the country there. I'm sure there will be teething problems, but in saying that we just want to get to the grassroots players and get the kids on court playing tennis," she said.

The tournament begins on Thursday, December 27 with a pōwhiri at the Rotorua Tennis Club at 8.30am.

Rotorua players' results at the 2017 Māori Tennis Championships in Hamilton
Dinny Mohi - Winner; 76+ men's singles
Dinny Mohi (Rotorua)/Richard Collier – Winners; 76+ men's doubles
Te Kani Williams/Logan Nathan (Rotorua) - Winners; open men's doubles
Aliya Edwards – Winner; 30-49 women's singles
Leona Davis-Kaye – Winner; 50-59 women's singles
Jessie Galvin-Dawson – Runner-up; open men's singles
Vienna Marew Waerea-Tamai – Winner; girls' 10-and-under singles
Mahinaranga Warren/Vienna Marew Waerea-Tamai (Rotorua) – Winners; Girls' 10-and-under doubles
Benji Bryce/Vienna Marew Waerea-Tamai (Rotorua) – Winners; 10-and-under mixed doubles
Albie Tipiwai (Rotorua)/Jeremy Wichman – Winners; 50-59 men's doubles
Wendy Wrigley (Rotorua)/Lehi Hohaia (Rotorua) – Winners; 50-69 mixed doubles