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Last Updated: Monday, 21 August 2006, 04:01 GMT 05:01 UK
New Zealand Maori choose new king
King Tuheitia
King Tuheitia is the seventh Maori monarch
Elders from New Zealand's indigenous Maori population have named 51-year-old Tuheitia Paki as their new king.

King Tuheitia, a university manager and cultural adviser, was chosen at a secret meeting in Ngaruawahia village.

He is the eldest son of the previous monarch, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, who died last week.

Dame Te Ata held the throne for 40 years, making her the longest-serving monarch in the 150 years since the Maori began choosing their leaders.

Public approval

King Tuheitia has a wife, Te Atawhai, and three children.

He is the seventh Maori monarch - all are from the same family line and were each chosen by Maori leaders from other tribes.

Dame Te Ata's coffin being transported by traditional canoe

His naming and enthronement happened shortly before the funeral of his mother Dame Te Ata, who died at 75.

Thousands of Maori had gathered at the traditional meeting place in Ngaruawahia for both events and before King Tuheitia was crowned, the crowd was asked if he should become monarch.

Having been given the people's approval he was then crowned in a simple ceremony which involved him being tapped on the head with a Bible - the same Bible was used to crown the six previous Maori monarchs.

Then, wearing his late mother's feather cloak, King Tuheitia joined her funeral service.

The service was attended by New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and two former prime ministers.

During the ceremony messages from Queen Elizabeth II, who is New Zealand's head of state, Pope Benedict XVI and several Pacific leaders were read out.

Her coffin was then taken several kilometres along the Waikato river by Maori canoe to Taupiri Mountain, the sacred burial place of the Tainui tribe, where Dame Te Ata will be interred alongside her predecessors.




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