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Surrounded by national leaders, Pacific royalty and King Tuheitia it was Waahi Pa's people who had stories about the late Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu.

To mark the year since Dame Te Ata's death, her Waahi home in Huntly was opened up especially for her memorial yesterday.

For the Waahi people the day was an emotional mix of looking to the past and to the future. Waikato kuia Te Ropine Herewini, 77, who travelled overseas with the queen, said she sent orchids to the monarch throughout her illness last year.

"But I didn't see her, that's my guilt."

She believes Tuheitia is like his grandfather King Koroki - most comfortable in the company of a few "cronies". And she worries about the burden of leadership.

Dame Te Ata had 40 years to carve out a niche, and she doesn't want too much pressure on Tuheitia too soon.

"When you look at the king, you can't help but want to embrace him and hold his hand."

Chief organiser Takaroa Raihe, 54, grew up with the queen's family and remembers cutting hay at Dame Te Ata's farm.

"She'd be in the kitchen cooking meals for us with some of the other wives. That was the mark of her, despite her status, she still did those things."

For him Tuheitia's coronation speech on Tuesday looms large. "I can't wait to hear what he has to say. I'm sure it'll be all the right things."

Iwi leader Tuku Morgan paid tribute to Prime Minister Helen Clark for moving along Tainui's river claim, one of Dame Te Ata's unsettled issues when she died.

And he acknowledged the Prime Ministers's "special relationship" with Dame Te Ata.

"Here were two powerful and influential women who felt the same way about a number of issues. There was that closeness."

He said since the queen's death, Tuheitia had represented the country in Japan, Australia, at the Tongan and Samoan royal funerals, tribal poukai and while on a trade mission for Tainui to Canada.

"Out of the 365 days of the year he wouldn't have many left for himself."

The king and his father Whatumoana Paki were off-limits to the media yesterday but sat with a portrait of Dame Te Ata between them.

About 10,000 people were hosted over the day including iwi from around the country and Tongan Princess Pilolevu Tuita.