An East Coast golfing identity died after a quad bike accident on a Tokomaru Bay farm at the weekend.

Peter Rouse, 74, was with his son and other family members on a Mata Rd farm helping to muster on Saturday afternoon. Police say the group had stopped at a hilltop to review their day's work at about 4pm.

Senior Sergeant Moera Brown said when the group decided to turn back to the homestead Mr Rouse's bike went forward instead of backwards down a steep bank.

The bike rolled several times over Mr Rouse as it tumbled 20m down the bank.

Advertisement

Senior Sgt Brown said the incident would be referred to the coroner. The Department of Labour would also investigate.

Mr Rouse first turned out for the region in 1962. He honed his golf swing at Te Puia Springs on a course his parents had helped develop in the late 1940s.

Over five decades he won the East Coast Championship 10 times, the last occasion in 2001 aged 63. He was also a long time Freyberg Rosebowl team member and had won the "King of the Coast" title 11 times by taking the Tolaga Bay Open.

Friend and fierce Poverty Bay rival Eric Gordon said the pair would often joke about who was the better golf man.

"He says me, and I always said him. He was certainly a legend all right."

For 25-30 years Mr Gordon, 69, stayed with Mr Rouse and his wife Dorothy at their farm near Te Puia Springs before they retired to Wainui Beach on the outskirts of Gisborne.

Yesterday afternoon, Mr Gordon was preparing to drive up to Mangatarata Station, the farm Mr Rouse's son, John, ran where the accident happened.

"They [Mr Rouse and his wife] were up there for the long weekend.

"Like what often happens when you're older, your reactions are not quite so good and those quad bikes are bloody dangerous things. Especially on that steeper hill country up there.

"You don't need to lose your concentration for very long, there's been quite a few accidents around here with older people.

"They're getting so powerful now, they used to be 50cc little bikes now they're 600cc.

"They're probably 300 kilos. If they tip on you you haven't got much of a chance. It's a very sad occasion, it's a terrible thing."

According to Department of Labour statistics there were 27 quad bike fatalities from 2006 to 2011, three of them last year.

Quad bikes are involved in about 28 per cent of all work-related farm deaths and the department has been campaigning for safer work practices because of the number of accidents and fatalities.