The man who died while refereeing a junior club rugby game on Saturday morning has been described as a very social man and a valued member of the local refs' association.

Peter Mills, 62, had been a member of the Marlborough Referee Association for more than 30 years and was refereeing an under-13s game between Central and Renwick when he collapsed 10 minutes into the match.

Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at Lansdowne Park, Blenheim by St John paramedics.

Marlborough Referee Association president Joe Bancroft said Mr Mills, a married father of two, was a very social man with a love of rugby.


"He's been the treasurer and was currently the appointments officer. He does a lot of back-room stuff, it's a big job,'' Mr Bancroft said.

"He loved his rugby.''

Mr Mills had been a premier grade referee for Marlborough some years ago, but was now refereeing games when needed.

"He's filled in over recent years when someone can't make it or there's a gap,'' Mr Bancroft said.

Mr Mills had been a dairy farmer on a farm in Koromiko, between Blenheim and Picton until he retired about a year ago.

He had since been working on vineyards in the region, Mr Bancroft said.

Referee Education Officer for the Tasman Rugby Union Nigel Jones said Mr Mills had for a long time been an important part of the sport in the region.

"Peter had been a valued member of the referee association."

Sergeant Jason Munro of Blenheim Police said bystanders and parame``ics performed CPR for around 50 minutes to no avail.

"He was well-known and well-respected and it was obviously distressing for everybody,'' Mr Munro said.

The young players were moved from the field when he collapsed, Mr Munro said.