Kaitaia New Year’s Eve assault victim Lee Rata 'protector of the family'

Lee Rata (left) with his sister Liz Waipouri. Rata died from injuries caused during an assault in Kaitaia.

Lee Rata (left) with his sister Liz Waipouri. Rata died from injuries caused during an assault in Kaitaia.

A man who died after an unprovoked attacked in Kaitaia on New Year's Eve leaves behind a five-month-old daughter and six-year-old son.

The family of Lee Rata, 35, say he didn't have many worldly possessions, but had a tonne of love and loyalty for his family and friends.

Rata was discovered lying on the side of a road with multiple head injuries at 11pm on Thursday December 31.

He was badly injured and was placed on life support at Whangarei Hospital, but died on Friday afternoon.

His father Nick Rata said he had just seen his son and newest grandchild for Christmas.

"[Lee] couldn't believe how much having his daughter had changed him."

His son was the "protector of the family" and always there for his mates, he said.

Lee Rata was the eldest of four children.

His sister Liz Waipouri said her brother had a massive circle of friends because you couldn't help but be drawn in by his personality.

"He's such a loveable guy. He doesn't have a lot of worldly possessions but he has a tonne of love and loyalty to give. He will give you the shirt off his back.

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"His sense of humour will have you in fits of laughter, he always has a story to tell and he tells it in a way that is fit for the big screen - hand movements, different voices the whole nine ards."

Her son Adrian had a special bond with his uncle, whom they holidayed with in 2015, she said.

"They both had tears in their eyes as they said goodbye. Never in a million years did we think it would be forever.

"He is a father, son, brother, uncle and nephew to many. And a bro to more. I don't talk about him in the past tense because he's still with us, watching, guiding and protecting."

Rata's body was being returned to family in Northland on Sunday, where a service and karakia would be held for him. 

Police said Rata was the victim of an unprovoked attack on New Year's Eve and suffered multiple head injuries during the assault.

Fifteen police are investigating the assault and have executed several search warrants in Kaitaia.

"Mr Rata received a severe beating and it must have been seen by someone," said Detective Inspector Kevin Burke, Northland Police District criminal investigations manager.

"[His] family are naturally grieving and we urge people who have information about what happened to come forward to police. This would help give the victim's family some form of closure."

Burke said there were a number of people in the area at the time and police want to speak with anyone who may have seen Rata earlier on New Year's Eve, or who attended a party on Bonnett Rd.

Although there were gang members at the party, there was nothing to suggest the attack was gang-related, police said.

Police said Rata was wearing black shorts, a grey hooded sweatshirt and steel-capped work boots when he was found. 

Those with information can contact police on 09 408 6500 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

 - Stuff

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