Lessons learned after eight years with moko

He's been inked for eight years but Gary Parata's tā moko still makes people uncomfortable.

While the Navy has welcomed its first officer to wear a full facial Māori tattoo, not all of society is so accepting.

"Just walking down the street, some people just cross and go to the other side about 10 metres from me when they spot me walking along," Mr Parata says.

Mr Parata visits schools in Auckland teaching kapa haka and says kids are far more accepting of his appearance.

"At the schools I'm doing mahi at, they're fine - the teachers, principals and all the children. At one school it's like the whole school wants to come to my class."

And so is the Royal New Zealand Navy, which allowed Rawiri Barriball to become the first naval officer to get a full facial tattoo.

"Moko on your legs and arms are getting more popular and everyone is getting them but moko on your face is, I guess in your face," Mr Barriball says.

Last night Newshub told Mr Barriball's story and overnight he's become an internet sensation with tens-of-thousands reading the story.

His online feedback has been overwhelmingly positive but face to face, it's a different story.

"Straight away you can see the reaction of people. Even body language, which I was prepared for, but the way people talk to you, it changes."

Gary Parata's advice to Mr Barriball is to be strong, stand tall and wear his tā moko with pride.

It's a challenging road but Mr Parata has no regrets and encourages people not to judge a book by its cover.

"Like I don't judge anyone that doesn't have a tā moko. It's been a lovely journey and the journey is still going."

A journey that for Rawiri Barriball, is just beginning.