One of the country's oldest hotels has had an extensive makeover.

Once home to Sir James Wattie, Mangapapa Hotel was reopened yesterday in front of a number of local and international dignitaries.

Members of the Parearau kapa haka group from Kahungunu welcomed the party which included Napier MP Stuart Nash and Hastings deputy mayor Cynthia Bowers, with a rousing rendition of Tika Tonu.

The hotel was bought in 1998 by Japanese property company Able-Hosho.


Japanese ambassador Toshihisha Takata said he was privileged to attend the official grand reopening of Mangapapa.

"The successful refurbishment of one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Hawke's Bay."

Japan is a major source of tourists for New Zealand, he said.

"Over 80,000 Japanese people visit New Zealand every year and that is much lower than the potential."

He was hopeful that with the 2019 Rugby World Cup to be hosted in Japan that mutual visitation will increase.

General manager David Thompson said the mantra of "Mangapapa heart" that has been adopted by his staff has seen the hotel become one of the best in New Zealand.

"We are a top ten of luxury hotel on TripAdvisor and that is thanks to the tireless efforts of our dedicated staff."

General manager of Tourism Hawke's Bay Annie Dundas said the "beautiful" hotel" told a "wonderful" story about Hawke's Bay.

The homestead was built in 1885 by William Nelson, the founder of the Tomoana Freezing Works in Hastings.

In 1946 Sir James Wattie purchased it to grow fruit and vegetables for his thriving business.

Sir James and his wife, Gladys, moved into Mangapapa in 1950.

Mangapapa means "fertile land" but it is unclear who gave the estate this name.