King battling poor health
King Tuheitia hosted a formal Maori New Year dinner last night for the first time, on the day he announced he would be stepping down from formal duties due to ill health.
About 150 invited guests attended the Matariki dinner at the Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development to celebrate the Kingitanga and the beginning of the new year.
Spokesman Rahui Papa said it was also an opportunity for King Tuheitia to finalise arrangements for his coronation in August.
Keynote speakers included emeritus professor Ranginui Walker and the South African high commissioner, Mtombizodwa Msuthukazi Lallie.
The dinner will become an annual event.
It was announced yesterday King Tuheitia had established a king's council and asked his eldest son to represent him as he struggled with ill-health.
Whatumoana Te Aa Paki, King Tuheitia's oldest son, will carry out official duties until his health improves.
Members of the council include George Mahuta, Tukoroirangi Morgan, Sir John Goulter, Rahui Papa, Tania Simpson, Hukiterangi Muru and Te Rangihiroa Whakaruru.