NZOM, educationalist. Died aged 74.

Toby Rikihana, who has died in Christchurch, was a man imbued with the culture and traditions of his Ngati Hinemihi people.

When Mt Tarawera exploded 120 years ago, the survivors from the Ngati Hinemihi living in the area took refuge with relatives in Rotorua. They could save little of their material wealth. But they were determined to pass on their traditions. So the young Hapimana grew up versed in his people's culture and customs.

That knowledge he soaked up as a child was added to and disseminated by Rikihana through a lifetime of teaching. His work made a major impact on the way Maori matters are taught in the education system.

Former North Shore Teachers College and Auckland College of Education lecturer George Parekowhai worked closely with Rikihana for three decades producing teaching resources.

"He came to a party at my place on the North Shore in the early 1970s," Dr Parekowhai said. "He pulled out his guitar and started singing these songs. I thought Id better get alongside this fellow and learn something."

Together they recorded and transcribed 276 songs, publishing them under the auspices of Te Roopu Tautoko i te Reo Maori through the North Shore Teachers College's Kohia resource centre.

There were also booklets on many subjects still in wide use in schools.

At the time of his death, Rikihana was working on a book on the relationship between mahi whai (string games) and te ao whetu (astronomy).

Rikihana started his career at Avondale Intermediate in 1960 and in 1970 was appointed deputy principal of Windy Ridge School on the North Shore, becoming well known for creative and innovative teaching methods.

He became principal of Maungatapere School in Kaipara and at Sutton Park School in Mangere, and head of Maori studies at Manukau Institute of Technology.

He was chief executive of the Maori Health Foundation.

A year-long secondment to Auckland College of Education saw him integrating taha Maori into all curriculum areas.

Rikihana played a prominent role in workplace politics with the primary teachers union, NZEI, from the 1970s.

Its politics was then driven by mainstream non-Maori people who believed New Zealand should be a multicultural community with Maori just one of the minorities.

Dr Parekowhai said he objected to that "and so did Toby. We said if there was to be a new approach, biculturalism should be the doorway."

In 2001, Rikihana was made a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education.

He also held a Te Waka Toi award for his contribution to Maori language and was a life member of both the NZEI and the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education.