A man found dead in Merivale yesterday was known as a peacemaker in the community who regularly intervened if there was trouble in the neighbourhood.

The man's body was found by neighbours beside Merivale School about 10am and police are treating the death as suspicious.

Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Turner told the Bay of Plenty Times the man had sustained head injuries but police were not sure whether this was the cause of death.

There had been reports of disorder in the area the previous night, he said.


"We are exploring the possibility that he was assaulted before he was found deceased," he said last night.

"No arrests have been made but I am confident we will identify those responsible."

Mr Turner said police had been interviewing witnesses and possible witnesses.

A post-mortem examination is to be carried out.

A team of police was going door-to-door when the Bay of Plenty Times arrived at the scene mid-morning.

The street, which feeds into the main entrance of the school, was cordoned off as officers examined the scene.

Shocked Merivale Peter Pan superette owners Deep Singh and Amardeep Kaur said the man, believed to be in his 50s, had been a regular customer.

"We've only known him since we took over the shop in September, but he was a very nice man and a very good person who used to come in at least once a day to buy his cigarettes and fish pies," they said.

Mr Singh said they had nicknamed him "JB" after the brand of cigarettes he bought.

"He was very helpful to us if we ever had any problems. It's very upsetting as there was no one like him in Merivale.

"He was a very, very good person.

"If ever there was someone fighting on the street he used to step in to try and break it up. He was the peacemaker. He had a real knack of being able to defuse tense situations."

One resident out walking in the area yesterday said he was asked by a police officer whether he had come across a fence pale in the area.

He said the dead man was known to intervene in disputes and he understood that he may have got offside with some people.

Another resident, who did not want to be named, said while she did not know the man, his death had left her feeling "very sad and quite shaken".

Other sources told the Bay of Plenty Times he was a long-standing resident in the street with three young daughters, two of whom attended Merivale School.

Principal Jan Tinetti yesterday confirmed the man was one of the "school's fathers" and in consultation with police, the school would be closed today, but would re-open tomorrow.

Board of Trustees chairman Bruce Delamere was reluctant to comment.

"It's shocking and extremely sad news," he said.

Mr Delamere said the man was a "very security-conscious person", and he had come to the school on several occasions to offer his advice on how to improve security.

He had not only helped with some security aspects around the school, but acted as an extra pair of eyes and ears to help the neighbourhood, he said.

Mr Delamere said the Board of Trustees and the principal would offer support to the man's family, pupils and staff and the rest of the school community.

Police want to hear from anyone in the area on Saturday night or yesterday morning who has any information.