Cruel end to dream

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Six years ago Paul Ropiha returned to Hawke's Bay - the place he loved - and retired.

In Porangahau he married and purchased a lifestyle block with his wife, and it was from that farm he left to collect firewood when he was tragically killed on Wednesday after losing control of his quad bike.

Aged 59, he died at the scene on Porangahau Road.

Mr Ropiha spent more than 30 years working at Tiwai Point smelter in Bluff before he returned home to Porangahau and retired. At Porangahau Beach he married his partner, Aramanu, in an early morning ceremony.

Yesterday Robert Ropiha described his brother, known as Paora, as a hard but fair man who was well liked within the community.

"He's been back here for about five, six years. He was loving it, he'd been away for 35, 40 years. A lot of people here didn't know him but they've all made themselves present here [today]. What sort of man was he? He was hard but fair - told it like it was."

He turned 59 just a week ago. His wife, in the South Island at the time of the accident, was on her way home yesterday.

"They loved the place that much they got married down on the beach one morning. It was bloody cold." Robert Ropiha said.

"It was beautiful out on the beach right before the sun came up over the hills. It was awesome. And they went for a swim, as soon as they got married, Mr and Mrs Ropiha, off they went. It was a beautiful wedding [with] breakfast on the beach."

Despite the length of time spent out of the region, he still considered Porangahau home.

"He enjoyed it out here. When he first came back they lived in Hastings, but this farm came up, so they bought it. He and his wife set up a business picking up sick people and taking them into town.

"They get people that have to go to the doctors. It's a free service so that's what he's been doing."

Robert Ropiha was visiting his brother for dinner when the accident occurred.

"My sister and I were here, we came here for tea last night and he was just sitting here with his quad bike and trailer unloading a load of wood. He was just going to get some more. He was good, he was just his normal self.

"We went away to do something else and then came back here ... and there was no-one here. The fire was going, the stereo was going. Then someone came rushing in five minutes later saying they found him on the road.

"They obviously don't know what caused it. It was up there on the main road. I don't know what happened - all I know is he got thrown off. When they stopped, they told me that they found him and he wasn't breathing."

Mr Ropiha was to spend last night at the family home and then taken to Porangahau marae in the morning.

His family, including his two children, were holding up "as well as can be expected" given the circumstances, Robert Ropiha said.

Porangahau Senior Constable John Singer said Mr Ropiha was very well known within the local community.

"It is sad because he is a local resident well liked," Mr Singer said.

"Any death involving one of the locals always hits the area hard.

" He was well regarded."

He noted Mr Ropiha and his wife ran a free service for the community assisting residents to travel to Waipukurau.

"It was a sponsored van and they would look after getting people in [to town] for groceries and health visits, and I think they would even take kaumatua on day trips to various places," Mr Singer said.

"He was a very, very, good community man - one that we're going to miss."

The crash is currently being investigated by the Eastern District Serious Crash Unit. Police want to hear from anyone who may have seen the quad bike towing the trailer in the area late that afternoon.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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