For Ash Puriri, completing his doctorate from the University of Waikato is a far cry from his days as a renowned Barry White impersonator.

In his mid-50s, Dr Puriri has accomplished a lot - he is a veteran of global cruise ship entertainment, an opera singer and songwriter.

Of Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rongomai-wahine and Ngāti Porou, he is graduating next month with a doctorate that has broken new ground in business research.

"My PhD is an absolute first in terms of exercising an emancipated indigenous methodology for a business doctorate.


"Management has long been considered and dominated by a Western methodology, coming from a scientific perspective and using qualitative and quantitative research methods, and now I've introduced a dedicated cultural empirical research methodology, a kaupapa Māori methodology," Dr Puriri said.

Ash's research looked at Māori indigenous tourism and examined the cultural values and processes that a whānau would encounter and engage in when developing a Māori tourism business.

He worked with a 'high-spec' Māori family that included siblings, kaumatua and was intergenerational.

He has a Graduate Diploma in Business and studied an MBA at Auckland University, before graduating with a Masters in Management Studies at Waikato University in 2013.

He performed a Barry White concert worldwide for about 25 years, having developed the niche due to his voice sounding like the late American musician.

"I am the only one in the world that is endorsed by Barry White's family doing Barry White."

Coming from humble farming background in Hawke's Bay, he left in 1998 and always gravitated towards learning and wanted to understand business and commercial law, with a focus on economic development of indigenous people.

As a speaker of seven languages, he picked up the knack of learning quickly.


"It is never too late to advance through education. I would like to encourage more Hawke's Bay people and the younger generation to pursue the educational path. I am a strong advocate for stimulating youth today."

He said the "ship provided many opportunities for me to engage with real global tourism issues".

"I often return back to Hawke's Bay and have been involved in a research project helping develop economic sustainability in Hawke's Bay.

"I always had and have kept strong affiliations with my tribe Ngati Kahungunu."

He said he looked forward to working with the new Government, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, to develop Maori tourism throughout New Zealand.

He still oversees folkloric shows on the cruise ships covering the South Pacific, but it may be he becomes more closely involved in academia in the future.

Meeting the demand for Māori tourism development has required developing a tourism course for Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiarangi integrated with the cruise ship industry, and he's also exploring opportunities at the University of Waikato.

Dr Puriri will graduate with his PhD at Te Kohinga Mārama Marae on December 11 at 2pm, surrounded by members of his whanau who are travelling from the East Coast for his special day.