When Central Hawke's Bay's Rod Appleton-Seymour died in December last year, the district lost one of its characters, mentors and "movers and shakers".

Appleton-Seymour's CV, should he ever have needed one, would have been a tome.

It would have to cover everything from his 47 fulltime years as a teacher, deputy principal, acting principal and principal. It would need to speak of his revival of the Waipawa and Districts Pipe Band and his 34 years as Pipe Major, his Long Service Award from the RSA for his piping, his vice-presidency of the CHB Winemakers and Brewers' Club, His past presidency and Long Service Award from Waipawa Lions, his role as patron of the Waipawa County and Snooker Club, and his CHBDC Civic Award for Outstanding Community Service.

There would be a list of his life memberships: Camp Wakarara, Waipawa and Districts Pipe Band, Hall Family Reunion Committee. There would have to be a separate volume for his founding, maintaining and championing of CHB's Camp Wakarara.


Appleton-Seymour's teaching career began in the 1950s in a place called Pohokura Mill. He had never heard of it. It turned out to be a 20-pupil school on the Napier Taupo Rd, with no books and no pencils. You had to go where you were sent, back then. Appleton-Seymour was once sent to be the infant mistress at Raukawa.

Teachers moved around a lot if they wanted to further their career but Appleton-Seymour decided against that. After taking a job at Otane School in 1958 he decided that's where he would bring his family up. He taught in Otane, Waipawa, Elsthorpe, Pukehou, and Springhill.

Even after retiring, or as he put it "resigning from permanent employment" he was a relief teacher in several schools and a classroom release teacher at Waipawa.

But one other thread that ran through his life, from 1977 on, was Camp Wakarara.

In 1977 when he was principal of Springhill School, Appleton-Seymour had a vision. The Department of Education was closing nearby Wakarara School and he negotiated with the HB Education Board to keep the classrooms and land. With the help from local Lions Clubs, Rotary and Jaycees he set up Camp Wakarara as an outdoor education facility for schools.

Appleton-Seymour was an exuberant leader, says Rachel Smith, who spent 25 years on the Camp Wakarara committee with him.

"He was an enthusiast, a toiler, and a completer.

"He believed students learn best in real life and moved mountains to develop and promote the facility. He shoulder-tapped service clubs and volunteer . . . the camp was built on loyalty, relationships, reputation, a network of community connections and damn hard work."


While Appleton-Seymour held dear to traditions he had a balanced view of moving with the times. While steadfastly maintaining that Camp Wakarara would be "no five-star hotel" (boar's nest bunks, pitching tents, cooking over wood-fired barbecues and using a compass) he had a website designed and used internet bookings and online banking, set up an on-site Geo Cache, for which he bought a GPS.

He was always the last to leave the camp's working bees . . . tidying, locking up and taking a trailer-load of rubbish to the dump on the way home. The committee was like a family, says Smith, and once you were on the committee it was hard to get off it. "People were very loyal."

Hundreds of children have been through the camp during its 40-year history. In his role in teaching and teacher mentoring, Smith says Appleton-Seymour was compassionate, protective "and very honorable."

"He wanted the best for people."

Appleton-Seymour was determined to get to 82, but he missed by four days.

He did, however, manage to get back to his beloved Strathmore, his home of 57 years, to die.

"He was stoked that the Lions van drove him home for that last time," says Smith.

"It was people he knew, and who meant something to him." Strathmore is crammed with history, some of which will go to his four sons and some to the library and museum, while boxes of Wakarara School memorabilia will go to the Camp Wakarara Committee.

"Rod has left the camp as one of his legacies, for all to enjoy," says Smith.