Tributes to revered Maori academic Emeritus Professor Ranginui Walker, whose death was announced today, have come from many quarters, but New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has a more personal perspective than many.

Professor Walker's family have a holiday house at Whananaki, which is also Mr Peters' base in Northland.

He said Professor Walker and his wife, Deidre, put a lot of effort into the children in Whananaki, including those from the Peters family, taking them out on the water and teaching them how to fish. "And when the Walkers caught fish, everybody had fish."

He said Professor Walker enjoyed diving and was a skilled DIY mechanic, able to do up his boats' motors and "reseating the valves, which most people could never do".


Both Mr Peters and Professor Walker had similar old clinker boats. "He came down here two years ago with the old propeller from that boat all polished up in brass." It was a gift for Mr Peters to hang on his wall.

The NZ First leader said Professor Walker had a different political point of view from his own.

"But it didn't alter the fact that we had some very meaningful discussions about people's perspectives.

"He took an approach that many people would have said was radical, many would have said was not what they agreed with. But he stuck to his guns and you've got to respect someone who sticks to their convictions...

"So in the end I think what matters is respect and integrity and he had that."

Mr Peters said he had known Professor Walker since the 1950s, when he taught at Whangaruru. He last saw him a year ago, but the professor was not able to make it up to Whananaki this summer.

Dr Walker, who would have turned 84 tomorrow, was a former professor of Maori studies at the University of Auckland. In 2001, he was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, equivalent to a knighthood. In 2009, when knighthoods were reintroduced, he declined the opportunity to take the title "Sir".