Man who drowned off Kakanui coast was from North Otago

Whererika Popata, 30, died alongside his brother Kereta Tatana at Kakanui Beach, near Oamaru, on...
Whererika Popata, 30, died alongside his brother Kereta Tatana at Kakanui Beach, near Oamaru, on Tuesday afternoon. The pair are originally from Kaitaia. Photo: Supplied
Two men who died in the water near Oamaru were brothers, doing what family say "they both loved most" - diving.

Kereta Tatana, 24, of Kaitaia, was visiting his brother Whererika Popata, 30, who is from Windsor which is 19km inland from Oamaru, when on Tuesday afternoon they drowned while diving for kai at Kakanui Beach.

The brothers were diving with a third man who was able to scramble to shore to safety.

Their sister, Athena Reihana-Campbell, told the Herald the family had been left devastated by the loss of the men, with Popata leaving behind two sons, Xavier and Kendrix.

She said both brothers were born in Kaitaia and both spent time growing up in Auckland.

Popata was "first and foremost a very loving and dedicated father, his love in life were his two sons".

"He strived hard to make a good life for them. Whererika also loved diving and gathering seafood, he was also a provider at heart.

"I cannot find the words to express how humble he was, how huge his heart was, he would never turn you away.

"He would give you the last cent in his account, the best of whatever he had, come to your side any time of the day and night, sit in silence with you just because.

"He loved to rap and he was very good at it, he also had a mad passion for anime."

She said both he and Tatana had an "undeniable love for their family".

They would always make time for those who made time for him.

Tatana, also known as Kere, 24, was the fifth child of Laurie Tatana, youngest child of Elba Reihana.

"The far north was his stomping grounds but he also spent time living in Auckland. He was a simple guy who had a such a huge heart full of love for anyone and everyone, very staunch in Te Ao Māori."

Kereta Tatana, 24, also known as Kere, died alongside his brother Whererika Popata while diving...
Kereta Tatana, 24, also known as Kere, died alongside his brother Whererika Popata while diving for kai on Tuesday afternoon. Photo: Supplied
Her brother had an infectious laugh, a passion for music, an undeniable love for all his family, siblings, parents, nieces and nephews, she said.

"Kereta played a very important role in our family, especially to our dad Laurie Tatana, Kereta was his left-hand man, always out on the farm doing those hard yards with dad."

He left behind not only parents, which also includes mum Elba Reihana, sisters and brothers but also his whāngai brothers who had become a part of their whānau.

Popata would also be missed by his mum Elba Reihana, father Rangi Popata and his ex-wife Bronwyn Popata-Lewis.

Reihana-Campbell said the pair were currently in Dunedin as the family made arrangements to transport them home to the Far North.

Funeral details were still being finalised.

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