George Mana, a warrant officer in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, was the warrior who issued the wero, or challenge, to Prince William. REUTERS/Woolf Crown Copyright
A heavily tattooed and bare-bottomed Maori warrior left the
Duchess of Cambridge grinning and proved an international hit
with his key role in a welcoming ceremony for the royal
couple at Government House in Wellington yesterday.
As baby Prince George was taken inside out of the chilly,
windy conditions, all eyes were on another George at the
traditional powhiri to William and Catherine.
George Mana, a warrant officer in the Royal New Zealand Air
Force, was the warrior who issued the wero, or challenge, to
Holding a taiaha (spear) and looking menacing, he crouched
cautiously before William to place a leaf on the ground -
which the Duke picked up as a sign of peace.
Warrant Officer Mana's performance and costume - a flax skirt
with a black thong underneath - proved to be a hit with
Catherine, who acknowledged him with a smile.
Warrant Officer Mana, a Maori cultural adviser to the Chief
of Air Force, lives in Palmerston North with his wife,
Ngatasha - also understood to work for the air force - and
their children. He is affiliated with Ngati Koroki Kahukura,
which is centred near Cambridge in Waikato.
He is originally from Auckland and attended Hato Petera
College, a Maori Catholic school in Northcote.
Kaumatua and cultural adviser Lewis Moeau, who stood with the
Duke, said it was a stunning performance from one of the top
leaders of the Defence Force kapa haka group.
"After the wero, he got to speak to the Duke and Duchess."
Warrant Officer Mana's tattoos would have been designed to
acknowledge his family roots and tribal affiliations, Mr
The officer immediately became a sensation overseas, with
international media running pictures and videos of his
Mr Moeau said another cultural adviser, Hiria Hape, said the
Duchess was very interested in the powhiri, given it was her
first trip to the country.
"As soon as we got to Government House, Hiria said that the
Duchess turned to her and said, 'I'm really looking forward
to this welcome because I have never seen this.'
"She's very natural. She had no problems with the hongi and
she was very lovely. But she was tiny - I could have wrapped
one arm around her."
After the powhiri, the royal couple moved on to speak with
students from Wellington's Rongotai College, who performed a
haka, and pupils from Clyde Quay, Muritai and Petone Central
Kaya Nielsen, 11, gave Catherine a letter she had written.
"I just wrote to her, 'Good luck and I hope the weather
doesn't ruin the letter and you look beautiful', which she
did," Kaya said.
She completed her letter with a drawing of the family's names
topped with crowns.
"She [Catherine] said that it was a wonderful picture and
then she read the letter."
Ten-year-old Mia Murdoch gave the Duchess a bunch of pink and
white flowers from her mother's garden.
"She asked me what my name was and if I chose the flowers
that I gave her," Mia said.
Prince William also impressed the children, with 12-year-old
Sally Bird describing him as "swish".
Meanwhile, the royals' visit has been compared to Prince
Charles and Diana's tour Downunder in 1983.
As the Duke and Duchess walked off their plane yesterday,
Prince George's outfit - all white - mirrored the outfit his
father wore when he and his parents arrived in New Zealand in
The fact that Catherine disembarked holding her son was also
noticeable, because in 1983, it was William's nanny, Barbara
Barnes, who carried him out of the aircraft.
The royal couple arrived on an RNZAF Boeing 757 from Sydney.
According to the Daily Mail, they flew to Sydney on a Qantas
service from London, booking out the first-class cabin for
them and their entourage.
They have a day off today.
In their next official engagement, tomorrow afternoon, they
and Prince George will meet 10 families associated with
- Vaimoana Tapaleao, NZ Herald