Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, queen of New Zealand's indigenous Maoris, died yesterday aged 75.

Te Ata was the seventh sovereign, a direct descendant of a royal line that began in 1858 when the Maori responded to Britain's colonisation of New Zealand by choosing a monarch. The role carries only ceremonial powers.

Te Ata was the longest-serving head of the Kingitanga (King) movement, largely a response to continual land losses as European settlers flocked to the colony.

Te Ata became Maori queen in May 1966, the day her father, King Koroki Te Rata Mahuta Tawhiao, was buried, and was catapulted into a role that included meeting the world's most influential people.

She raised the profile of Maori, acting as cultural ambassador and hostess to most royal and diplomatic visitors.

She dined with Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, South African President Nelson Mandela and US President Bill Clinton.

No successor was announced.