The question's a must ask: Why is it that Ngahi Bidois' face is so heavily etched with ta moko?

The response bounces right back: "Why not?" It's a reply that's classically Ngahi Bidois, the home-grown international leadership speaker who's motivated by the core of Māori-ness that defines him.

It's of note his ta moko, his "trademark" for 14 years, begins from the eyes and ear lobes downward leaving his forehead barren. That's for good reason. "It emphasises a clear head, clear mind.

"Before having it I chose not to drink, smoke, do drugs . . . it [the moko] is warrior style, I see myself as a modern day Māori warrior humbly helping people on their journeys."


The work of his cousin, Heemi Te Peeti, who executed it in eight hours, the ta moko is so much part of him his email address includes the words "the facefull New Zealand".

It's the face of a man who, in his 57 years, has ridden the crests of the waves of achievements but there've been troughs too – he's faced unemployment, turning it into a learning opportunity.

A long-time contributor to this newspaper's Te Māori section, writing's a passion. His book Ancient Wisdom Modern Solutions came off the press in 2013; it's an insight into his life and the wisdom his culture's given him.

To establish exactly what this entails we hand him a metaphorical paring knife with an invitation to peel back the layers enfolding that defining core of his, the first cut reveals the marae he credits with shaping him.

"I have a self-accredited MBA – 'Maori boy from Awahou', the whanau whare [family home] was in Western Heights but I did most of my growing up on Awahou marae where I was a fully-minted member of Ngati Rangiwewehi, performing kapa haka in concerts at Tama [Tamatekapua meeting house] and the Concert Chamber."

For the man who now holds a Bachelor of Business Studies, a Masters in Education with Honours and a diploma in secondary teaching, secondary school was the place he went to play rugby and softball – becoming a member of Western Heights High's First XV and the Bay of Plenty junior softball reps.

"I was in one of the lowest streams, only passed School Cert in maths but managed to get into Form 6.

"That's when I went to live in the Ford Block with my grandmother, Riini Orchard. She said 'you can come and live with me if you finish your schooling'. She'd never had a moko finish high school."


Ngahi picked up the challenge, knuckled down, got University Entrance accredited.

"I was very fortunate, humbled, Te Arawa chose me as one of their two representatives for a Maori Affairs Tu Tangata Scholarship to Massey University."

Graduating with that business studies degree, he joined the corporate sector working for Mobil Oil in Palmerston North until the branch closed. By then he'd married his Pakeha wife, Carolyn Bailey.

"We met through our church groups, I saw her and was smitten, have loved her ever since."

Ngahi's chuffed his profile's running today. It's their 34th wedding anniversary.

Their two children, son Eruera and daughter Tumanako, are as adored as his wife.

"They were kura kids, both head boy and girl and dux at Te Kura O Te Koutu."

When Mobil closed Ngahi returned to learning, enrolling with Carolyn in Lifewise Ministries Bible College near Warkworth.

"There I came to a crossroads, realised I'd lost my identity, had turned my back on my people."

The couple returned to Palmerston North jobless, Ngahi joined a Taha Māori access programme immersing himself in te reo and culture.

"My wife had said 'when our kids are born I'd like you to only speak te reo,' she's fluent in it too."

Access tutors encouraged Ngahi to gain his teaching diploma, it led him to join, then head, Palmerston North's Freyberg High's Maori studies department.

"I'd insisted I continue to teach accounting, business studies, economics, commerce so I could be a role model for our young people."

Five years on - "my life seems to move in five-year cycles" - he was shoulder-tapped to join a Tauranga teachers' training institute; while there he began extramural studies for his Masters.

"In 2001 I came home [Rotorua], I was always going to return. Te Arawa educated me, it was time for me to serve my people."

He joined the then Waiariki Institute of Technology (WIT, now Te Ohomai) heading the Māori studies, journalism, fashion, arts and design faculties, departing during a period of change.

Ngahi Bidois speaks at the Rotorua Anzac Day dawn service last year. Photo / Ben Fraser
Ngahi Bidois speaks at the Rotorua Anzac Day dawn service last year. Photo / Ben Fraser

He and Carolyn established Kauri Consultants "helping people grow like kauri trees".

Local motivational specialist Debra Bell (Our People, May 31, 2013) attended a presentation.

"She said she saw me speaking around the world, helping people on their journeys. I started crying, I knew this was part of what God had in store for me. Deb took me to the National Speakers Association in Auckland, that was the start of becoming a professional speaker.

"I was MCing an international early childhood education conference here [Rotorua] and this English woman invited me to do leadership work in the UK."

A 3000-person Human Resources conference in Singapore followed which, in turn, generated an invitation from Google New York to speak to an even bigger audience. The invitations kept coming until travel eventually palled.

"I was in Florida when it dawned on me I had this awesome partner and children who were my first priority."

The Bidois' speaking circuit's now restricted to Australasia.

Ngahi's recently added professional trustee to his "activities" portfolio, representing both sides of his whanau on land trusts, caretaking assets worth multi-millions of dollars.

Along the way he's hosted VIPs for Volcanic Air Safaris and entertained overseas guests on his former Hamurana lifestyle block, his latest appointment's to the Fish & Game Council, next year he's staring a doctorate at Wananga Awanuiarangi.

"I'm blessed, fortunate, humbled to have been able to do these things thanks to the opportunities my people have given me. I guess it's fair to say I have an attitude of gratitude."

Born: Rotorua, 1961
Education: Western Heights Primary, Kaitao Intermediate, Western Heights High, Massey University
Family: Wife Carolyn, son Eruera in final med school year, daughter Tumanako studying for nursing diploma
Iwi affiliations: Ngati Rangiwewehi, Ngati Whakaue, Ngati Ranginui, (paternal side); Ngati Tahu-Ngati Whaoa, Ngati Tuwharetoa (mother's side)
Interests: Whanau. "Chilling with my wife." Golf. "My goal's a single figure handicap, I'm on 11." "My wife says I'm a petrol head, I go to Bathurst most years." Maori ambassador Rotorua Stock Car Club and Speedway; conducting whanau and close friends' funerals, writing, reading - "I have 20 leadership, business and Why I Suck At Golf books on my bedside table."
On Rotorua: "Awahou's the centre of my universe, Rotorua's home. I've spoken around the world but the city's 2017 Anzac dawn service will always be the most special to me."
Personal philosophy: "It's through listening, observing and thinking we gain wisdom to speak."