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'She had a massive heart' written by the ODT

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

Wakatipu High School's head of drama is being lauded for her huge impact on both students and the wider community.

Kate Moetaua, aged 45, succumbed to melanoma last Friday after a long, courageous battle.

Last year the community raised $80,000-plus through a Givealittle page to help fund an expensive melanoma drug.

She made a partial return to teaching and, just two months ago, directed students in the finals of a national one-act play competition for the fourth time in five years.

Kate, who leaves behind husband Teaukura and daughters Anika, 15, Aya, 10, and Malia, 8, joined Wakatipu High permanently in 2011.

She was head of drama and also a house dean for a number of years.

"She touched the lives and impacted on the lives of so many students and parents and families – her impact was absolutely massive," principal Steve Hall says.

"She was just so giving, and she gave so much time to things like musicals and performances."

He says a fundraising show, Made by Kate, that students and ex-students put on during her illness, last December, showed how much impact she’d had on them.

Sydney-based ex-student Victoria Boult says Kate was a massive part of her life for 16 years since joining the Kate Moetaua School of Drama, now Drama Queenstown, at the age of five.

"One of the reasons I found her to be insanely inspirational and why I was still calling her two months ago to get advice on a character I was playing, was because I’ve never met a teacher, or a person, that cares so much.

"Every time you walked into the drama room she was, like, ‘how can we push this further, make this better?’

"She just never settled for second best."

In 2015, Boult was in her national one-act play-winning troupe, and she also joined the New Zealand Young Shakespeare Company in London that year.

Only last month, Kate excitedly emailed Mountain Scene to announce that student Izzy Jack’s treading that same path next year.

Raised in Blenheim, Kate was a talented actor herself, winning an NZ performing arts award in acting, and also a competitive horse rider.

Shifting to Queenstown in about ’96, she first worked at the Parkroyal hotel as its Japanese coordinator, where she met fellow employee Teaukura, whom she married in 2000.

He recalls her writing two books for Cook Island kids that honoured his and her children’s Cook Island heritage.

Teaukura confirms the past year was "pretty tough" for Kate, "but she just kept fighting through every barrier that we came up against".

Her partial return to work "was just so she could feel normal and be where she wanted to be, which was with her students".

"She had a massive heart, Kate."

He says one of their last chats was about setting up the Kate Moetaua Foundation to give opportunities in drama, sport or whatever to kids from struggling families.

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