One-test Kiwi and respected Maori leader Mita Mohi MBE JP has died in Rotorua, aged 78.

Mohi (Kiwi #501) played among the forwards, representing Canterbury in 42 games from 1960-73, and turning out for Marist, Papanui and Riccarton in Christchurch.

He also represented South Island three times and NZ Marist, making his only appearance for the Kiwis against hosts France at the 1972 World Cup. Ironically, Mohi injured a calf during the pre-match haka and was replaced during the game.

A train driver in his early working life, Mohi was also a professional wrestler and prominent in Maori tennis, but is best known for his promotion of the Maori culture and particularly “mau rakau”, the art of Maori weaponry.

He established the Mokoia taiaha wananga to train boys and men in the art of using the Maori spear, and also developed a mau rakau programme that has run in New Zealand prisons.

Mohi was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1995 New Year Honours for his services to youth and, in 2007, received a Rotorua District Council community award for voluntary services.

He was given the Keeper of Traditions Award at the 2012 National Waiata Maori Music Awards and that same year, accepted the Sir Kingi Ihaka Award at the Te Waka Toi Awards.

“The wairua [spirit] that man had was just incredible,” second cousin and NZRL life member Trevor Maxwell told the Rotorua Daily Post.

“There would have been thousands of kids who went through his programme on Mokoia Island. He helped so many, especially those at-risk kids.”