Flags at the Rotorua District Council will be flying at half mast to acknowledge the deaths of two prominent Rotorua men.
Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters said the flags at the council building will be flying at half mast tomorrow and Thursday as a sign of respect to prominent Te Arawa kaumatua Rawiri Te Whare and the council's former environmental services director Nigel Wharton.
The death of Mr Te Whare has hit his whanau hard.
Mr Te Whare, 69, affiliated to Ngati Tahu and Ngati Whaoa, died on Sunday with his whanau at his side after a difficult battle with diabetes.
On the way to Ohaaki Marae for his tangi, Mr Te Whare's body was brought to Tangatarua Marae at Waiariki Institute of Technology where he taught for many years. His whanau, friends and former colleagues gathered at the marae to pay their respects and say goodbye to the man who had done so much. His step-daughter Deanna McCormack said she and her family were finding it hard to believe Mr Te Whare was gone. He had been a huge part of Ms McCormack's family since he married her mother Patricia 20 years ago.
"He's been my dad for the last 20 years. He was just the most lovely, honest, hard working Dad, koro and husband - he's going to be missed. We all lived in the same street, it's going to be hard for all of us. We used to see him going home, the kids would run up to see him and get some lollies. He's my second dad that we've had to bury."
She said Mr Te Whare had been sick for "quite a while" and had been admitted to Rotorua Hospital last Thursday before being transferred to Waikato Hospital on Friday as his condition worsened. He died in hospital on Sunday afternoon. "I think the whole time I knew it was going to happen but I didn't want to believe it, or that it was going to be so soon."
Among the people at Tangatarua was Ngati Whakaue kaumatua Pihopa Kingi, who said Mr Te Whare was a humble and reserved gentleman who had been active in helping settle many of the Central North Island forestry and land claims, including places like Kaingaroa Forest.
"He worked at Waiariki for many years until the Central North Island forestry and land settlements. He applied himself just as diligently and earnestly to his task seeking a fair and just settlement to those claims. His loss will be felt amongst many, many families and individuals who knew him well."
Mr Te Whare was also the deputy chairman of Tauhara North No 2 Trust. Chairman Ngahi Bidois said Mr Te Whare was a highly valued member of the trust who chaired the Human Resource sub-committee and was the recognised leader of te reo and tikanga cultural aspects of the trust.
"Rawiri shared many pearls of wisdom which formed the basis of our values and identity. Rawiri was always focused on the main goal of the trust, the development of our people. Rawiri will be remembered for his quick intellect, commitment, courage, wise words, quirky sense of humour and huge smile."
He is survived by wife Patricia, his children and grandchildren.