Tama Poata was born and raised in Tokomaru Bay. From 1965-1975 he was secretary of the Māori Organisation on Human Rights and in 1975 was vice-president of Te Matakite. He became involved in the film industry in the 1970s while working as an actor in the television dramas "Pukemanu" and "The Governor". Since that time Poata has worked as a screen player, scriptwriter and producer. He wrote the script for Ngāti which was produced in association with Pacific Films. The film received great acclaim overseas, winning the 1986 Cannes Film Festival’s Critics’ Choice Award, and Italy’s Best Film Award in the 1987 Taormina Festival. Ngāti was also awarded "Best Film", "Producers Award", and "Screenplay Award" in the New Zealand Film and Television Awards in 1988. Poata also wrote and produced Kamate with Pacific Films. Other feature film credits include Utu, Lie of the Land, The Bounty, Wild Horses, Among the Cinders and Mark II. He also has film credits in many television dramas and series.
Poata is currently involved in full-time film work and is director of Te Hokioi film company which he founded in 1986. Alongside his film work, Poata writes non-fiction articles, short stories, reviews and letters which have been published in Te Ao Hou and People’s Voice. One of his short stories won a prize of $10.
Poata has attended various conferences including the “Dream Speaker’s Conference” in Edmonton, a policy makers’ conference at Griffith University in Brisbane, and the sixth South Pacific Festival in Rarotonga. He gave an address and chaired a session on Aboriginal filmmakers at the Second Australian Documentary Conference in Canberra in 1991. As well as producing and directing the television documentary tribute “Tuaiwa Hautai Rickard”, Poata contributed to Nga Puna Roimata, the publication celebrating the life of Eva Rickard.
- Correspondence from Tama Poata, 4 Feb. and 5 Apr. 1998 and 6 August 2004.
- New Zealand Who’s Who Aotearoa. Ed. Alister Taylor. Vol. 1. Auckland, N.Z.: New Zealand Who’s Who Aotearoa, 1992. 230.
- Mitchell, Shirley Thomas. "Talking To Tama Poata, Indigenous Film Maker." CommonTatta: Quarterly Literary Journal 1.1 (1993): 27-30.
- The Tattooed Generals. No details.
- Te Upoko o Te Ika. No details.
- Access. No details.
- Ngāti. Script by Tama Poata. Dir. Barry Barclay. Prod. John O’Shea. 1987.
- In the New Zealand Film and Television Awards of 1988 this film was awarded Best Film, Producer’s Award and Screenplay Award. Ngāti also won Best Film in Taormina (Italy) in 1987.
- Against the Tide. No details.
- "From Ngāti. Te Ao Mārama: Contemporary Māori Writing. Comp. and ed. Witi Ihimaera. Contributing ed. Haare Williams, Irihapeti Ramsden and D. S. Long. Vol. 1: Te Whakahuatanga O Te Ao: Reflections of Reality. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1992. 252-259.
- Extracts from Scenes 17, 94, 95, 96 and 113 which highlight Greg’s racist views of the Australian aborigines and the interaction between the local Māori community and the Pakeha representatives of the local freezing works with young Sally opposing the paternalistic views of the Pakeha.
- Tuaiwa Hautai Rickard. Written, dir. and prod. Tama Poata. Dec. 1997.
- This documentary in tribute to Eva Rickard of Whaingaroa (Raglan) was written, produced and directed by Tama Poata and screened in December 1997.
- "Te Matakite o Aotearoa Hui, Raglan." Pacific Voices: An Anthology of Writing by and about Pacific People. Ed. Bernard Gadd. Albany: Stockton House, 1977. 19-21.
- Poata describes the hui he attended at Raglan and the placing of fence posts on the disputed land at Raglan Golf course. He concludes with the closing song of the hui, the Song of the Seven Canoes.
- "Bienvenue at Cannes." Onfilm 4.4 (1987): 5-6.
- Poata writes his impressions of his trip with Barry Barclay and Wi Kuki Kaa to the Cannes Film Festival where Ngāti was screened in the Critics Week.
- "Salute Our Survival." 1840-1990: A Long White Cloud? Ed. Tom Newnham. Auckland, N.Z.: Citizens’ Association for Racial Equality and Graphic Publications, 1989. 59-63.
- In this essay Poata speaks of his childhood pride in the Māori Battalion and his growing politicisation while working on the Roxburgh hydro project after the Industrial Lockout in 1951. Poata describes the role of the "Māori Organisation on Human Rights" and "Nga Tamatoa" in regaining Māori control of Māori things, and pays tribute to the role of Māori kuia and whaea whom he considers spearheaded much of the modern Māori struggle. His paper ends with optimism for Aotearoa’s future because he believes ‘there are enough honest Pakeha who represent the majority of our society.... We are one nation with two people...’.
- "How can we lose." Nga Puna Roimata: Tuaiwa Hautai Kereopa Rickard 1925-1997. Tuaiwa Whanau and Moko Productions, 1998. 69-71.
- "Council Shirking Its Responsibilities." Te Kaunihera Māori: New Zealand Māori Council Journal Winter Issue (1968): 37.
- In this assessment of the New Zealand Māori Council, Poata writes that as organiser of the Wellington Drivers’ Union he meets many who contend that the Council ‘functions as a rubber stamp, and [is] a pacifying force working in the interest of the Government.’
- "The Need For Research." Te Māori: The Official Journal of the New Zealand Māori Council 1.4 (May/June 1970): 25-27.
- This letter was written in response to the Dominion editorial of March 23, 1970, but was refused publication in the Dominion.
- "Waitangi." Te Māori: The Official Journal of the New Zealand Māori Council 1.4 (May/June 1970). 27.
- Poata writes to the Dominion protesting against the editorial of March 24 1970.
- "The Sports Boycott." Te Māori: The Official Journal of the New Zealand Māori Council 1.4 (May/June 1970). 27
- A response to an article in the Dominion.
- Te Māori: The Official Journal of the New Zealand Māori Council 2.4 (July/Aug 1971): 44.
- Poata challenges various statements made in an article in Te Māori 2.2 (1971) entitled ‘Dr Pei Te Hurinui Jones Speaks for Māori People at Waitangi Hui 1971.’
- "Unity in Discussion." Te Māori: The Official Journal of the New Zealand Māori Council 2.5 (Oct./Nov. 1971): 52.
- Poata discusses the reporting of the Waitangi Day activities, questions the use of the word ‘celebrations’ in connection with Waitangi Day, disputes the reported statement that it was only Tamatoa who ‘expressed their dissatisfaction at Waitangi last February, and expresses his hope that Te Māori might provide the ‘common marae or forum’ for discussion of these issues.
- Te Māori: The Official Journal of the New Zealand Māori Council 3.1 (1972?): 48.
- Poata comments on the Te Māori editorial of the Dec.-Jan. (1971) edition entitled ‘Need for Owner Participation in Incorporations", and lists four obstacles facing Māori land owners to which the then Minister of Māori Affairs, Mr Duncan MacIntyre writes a response.
- Foreword. Aureretanga: Groans of the Māoris. G.W. Rusden. [Cannons Creek], N.Z.: Hakaprint, 1974.
- A facsimile reprint of the 1888 edition published by W.Ridgway in London with the addition of a new introduction, foreword and commentary.
- Foreword. Te Karanga A Te Kotuku: Some Records Of The Land Struggle Of Saana Murray And Her People Of Te Hiku O Te Ika, The Far North Of New Zealand. Ed. Ruth Lake for the Māori Organisation On Human Rights. Wellington, N.Z.: Māori Organisation On Human Rights, 1974.
- Te Karanga A Te Kotuku: Some Records Of The Land Struggle Of Saana Murray And Her People Of Te Hiku O Te Ika, The Far North Of New Zealand. Ed. Ruth Lake for the Māori Organisation On Human Rights. Wellington, N.Z.: Māori Organisation On Human Rights, 1974.
- In this collection of poetry and articles in which Murray documents the struggle to have her ancestral lands placed back in Māori hands, she includes a series of letters written by Tama Poata
- Simpson, Ann. "Haere Mai Homecoming." Onfilm 4.4 (1987): 3-4.
- Simpson writes of the premiere of Ngāti at Waipiro Bay.
- Film Policy - An Australian Reader. No details.
- A paper presented by Tama Poata on Māori Film-makers.
- Rev. of "Our Own Image" by Barry Barclay. Te Iwi o Aotearoa 42 (Mar 1991): 11.
- Cairns, Barbara and Helen Martin. Shadows on the Wall: A Study of Seven New Zealand Feature Films. Auckland, N.Z.: Longman Paul, 1994.
- Gibson, Nevil. "Māori money not for Māori landowner." Te Māori 5.5 (Oct 1973): 11.
- This article chronicles the correspondence concerning Poata’s unsuccessful application for a loan from the Māori Affairs Department.
- Mitchell, Shirley Thomas. "Talking To Tama Poata, Indigenous Film Maker." CommonTatta: Quarterly Literary Journal 1.1 (Jan 1993): 27-30.
- A discussion of Poata’s work in the New Zealand film industry.
- "Poata in Singapore." NZ Film 37 May 1989: 11.