Mātai Smith

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  • Presenter
  • Broadcaster
  • Fluent in Te Reo
  • MC
  • Voice
  • Kapa haka performer

Mātai Smith, a proud "Māori boy from Gizzy," embarked on his educational journey at Kaiti Primary School, Ilminster Intermediate, and Lytton High School in Gisborne. His passion for the Māori language ignited during his time at Lytton, leading to a remarkable career in media. It all began when TV producer Hinewehi Mohi recognized his talent and offered him a role as a researcher and reporter on the Māori affairs show Marae in 1996.

Over the years, Mātai's career flourished. In 1998, he found himself directing and presenting the Sunday morning show on TV One, an exhilarating experience where perfection was the only option. The pinnacle of his journey included a nine-year stint as co-host of Pūkana, a groundbreaking Māori language children's program. Under the title Tūmeke, it won awards and captured the hearts of viewers, especially those in Māori immersion schools.

Mātai's unique approach emphasized relatability, using 'street' language and cultural elements like hip hop and sky-diving to connect with young audiences. His journey continued with roles as a producer on Pūkana and the quiz show Ihumanea.

During Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) in 2007, Mātai hosted a segment on Good Morning, teaching presenters Brendon Pongia, Sarah Bradley, and Steve Gray simple Māori words and phrases. His engaging teaching style made it a hit, and the segment became a regular feature.

Mātai's commitment to promoting te reo extended to his role as a presenter on Good Morning, where he integrated Māori language into the show's regular programming seamlessly. His versatility as a host was evident in various roles, from emceeing weddings to hypnotism antics, which even went viral.

In December 2015, Mātai bid farewell to Good Morning. His hosting journey continued with the popular Māori talent show, Homai Te Pakipaki, where he celebrated diverse talents and made it a show close to his heart.

Throughout his career, Mātai has interviewed a wide range of subjects, from politicians to celebrities like Taika Waititi and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. He's a respected commentator on Māori media.

Teaching and promoting te reo has always been a personal mission for Mātai. He presented Kōrero Mai, an innovative educational series that used a soap opera format to inspire young learners to embrace te reo from 2009 to 2012. He also produced the song 'Aotearoa' in 2014, which became a chart-topping hit, continuing his legacy as a te reo champion.

Between 2005 and 2007, Matai was honoured with the Best Te Reo Māori Television Presenter (Male) award at the Māori Media Awards. In 2012, he received the Best Presenter award in the entertainment/factual category at the 2012 New Zealand Television Awards for his outstanding work on Homai Te Paki Paki. Matai has vast experience in hosting various events, including M9's fourth instalment, and he is currently in his 15th year hosting the Ahuwhenua Maori Awards.

In 2023, he hosted the fifth "Te Matatini" live coverage for TVNZ and hosted Mānawatia a Matariki a multi-network live broadcast with co-host Stacey Morrison. He currently co-hosts the famous morning 'Turanga Health Breakfast' radio show.

Mātai's career has been a testament to his dedication to te reo and his passion for connecting with audiences in a culturally resonant way. He remains a prominent figure in New Zealand's media landscape.