Whai Ngata was born Waipiro Bay and was educated at Hiruharama Primary School, Mangere East Primary School, Otara Intermediate, Te Aute College, Otahuhu College, and St Stephen’s School. Ngata went on to study at Auckland Teachers’ College and completed papers at Auckland University and Victoria University. He worked in a number of different occupations before starting a career in journalism in 1968 at the Auckland Star. He was appointed editor of the New Zealand Export Review and subsequently worked for the New Zealand Manufacturer and The South Pacific Travel Trade News. In the 1970s he was editor of the Marae magazine. From 1975-1983 Ngata worked for Radio New Zealand in Wellington and worked in Māori news and Māori documentaries. In 1983 he became a founding staff member of Te Karere and since 1986 has been executive producer or producer of Waka Huia, an archival documentary in the Māori language which has produced some 700 episodes. Many of these programmes have been subtitled in English. Waka Huia was awarded the TV Guide Film and Television Award for best Māori language programme 1997. Ngata is also executive producer of Marae which is transmitted at 11 a.m. on Sundays and is in both Māori and English. In 1994 he was appointed General Manager of Māori programmes at TVNZ. During his career as a journalist Ngata has written a large number of non-fiction articles and has written karakia for Shortland Street scripts. He has also written a short story and several waiata and songs. The English content of Prince Tui Teka’s song "E Ipo" was dictated by Ngata to the late Purewa Biddle. Ngata’s father, Hori Mahue Ngata, started working on the Ngata Dictionary in 1962; after his death in 1989, Whai spent five years bringing the dictionary to completion. In 1980 he won the Mobil Award for best documentary on the 28th Māori Battalion. Ngata has a passion "for the continuance of the Māori language and customs, and for the achievements of Māori."
- Phone conversation with Whai Ngata, 21 June 1998.
- Correspondence from Whai Ngata on 16 and 24 July 2004.
- "The Haircut." Tokonoma. Auckland, N.Z.: Auckland Teachers Training College, 1961.
- "Kao." Na Nikki Phillips nga pikitia. [Illus. Nikki Phillips]. Te Tautoko19. Wellington, N.Z.: Learning Media, Ministry of Education, 1993. 18-19.
- "Harry Dansey: A Model for those who choose his craft." Tu Tangata 33 (Dec 86/Jan 87): 43.
- A tribute to writer Harry Dansey.
- "The Tairawhiti Association." Te Ao Hou 68 (1969/70?): 52.
- Whai writes of the reestablishment of the Tairawhiti Association in Auckland, N.Z. after some five years of inactivity. Whai notes that the object of the association is ‘the forming of another avenue of aid for Māoris coming into the city’ and while Māori from Tairawhiti would initially be targeted, Māori from other tribal backgrounds would not be excluded.
- "Tributes" Te Māori: The Official Journal of the New Zealand Māori Council 2.3 (Apr/May 1971): 1.
- An obituary of Hanara Te Ohaki Tangiawha Reedy, who died in Gisborne aged 69.
- "New Bishop of Waiapu." Te Māori: The Official Journal of the New Zealand Māori Council 2.3 (Apr/May 1971): 5.
- Ngata writes of Paul Reeves’ appointment as Bishop of Waiapu and provides a brief biography of the Bishop. This story was initially covered by Ngata for the Auckland Star.
- "Māori Opinion Sought on Incorporation Laws." Marae Magazine 1.3 (1974): 2-4.
- A report of a government-sponsored meeting of representatives from many of the 170 Māori Land Incorporations held at Poho-O-Rawiri Marae, Gisborne in the early 1970s. This report includes a breakdown of the respective acreage of land and stock numbers of incorporations in the Land Court areas.
- "Move Towards Federation." Marae Magazine 1.3 (1974): 5.
- Ngata discusses the formation of a committee of seven who were elected at the Māori Land Incorporations meeting at Poho-O-Rawiri Marae, in Gisborne in 1974, to assess the feasibility of forming a federation of Māori land incorporations.
- "MANGATU: A Giant Māori Farming Enterprise." Marae Magazine 1.3 (1974): 7-9.
- Ngata presents a profile of the 104,000 acre Mangatu Incorporation which is located northeast of Gisborne.
- "Leasing of Māori Land for Forestry." Marae Magazine 1.3 (1974): 9-10.
- A discussion of proposals outlined by Mr Moyle, as Minister of Forests, concerning the leasing of Māori land for forestry purposes.
- "Ngata, Hori Mahue 1919-1989." ibid. 371-372.
- "Ngarimu, Te Moananui-a-kiwa 1919-1943." The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Vol. 5. 1941-1960. Auckland; Wellington, N.Z.: Auckland UP; Dept. of Internal Affairs, 2000. 370-371.
- "Te Kiore a Te Māori." Na Whai Ngata i whakamāori nga kimi kōrero a Brad Haami. Na Peter Woods nga pikitia [Illus. Peter Woods]. Te Tautoko19. Wellington, N.Z.: Learning Media, Ministry of Education, 1993. 10-14.
- English-Māori Dictionary. H. M. Ngata. Whanganui-ā-Tara [Wellington], N.Z.: Te Pou Taki Kōrero/Learning Media, 1993. Second Impression, 1994.
- An extensive English to Māori dictionary with 14,500 headwords compiled by native speakers including many kaumatua. The dictionary is primarily but not exclusively based on the dialect and idiom of Ngāti Porou.
- "Love of Land and Their People Dominate the Māori Writers." Rev. of Whanau, by Witi Ihimaera. Marae Magazine 1.3 (1974): 44.
- Rev. of "New English-Māori Dictionary." The Press 17 Nov. 1993: 25.