A woman who was the face of calm on an ugly night in Auckland's history has died.

The night was the Queen St riot. The woman was Hine Grindlay.

She is remembered by many as the central figure in a Herald photograph of the riot, dressed in her Māori warden uniform, striding resolutely, hand-in-hand with young and old, Pākehā and Māori.

Grindlay, who had lived for many years on Auckland's North Shore, died in North Shore Hospital on November 30, aged 74.

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A mother and grandmother, she was buried at an urupā near Cape Runaway in the eastern Bay of Plenty, following a funeral at Kauaetangohia Marae.

Hinei Poua Grindlay
Born - November 25, 1944
Died - November 30, 2018

Friends and associates recall a strong personality and her devotion to public service.

"She was an outstanding woman," said Waipareira Trust chief executive John Tamihere.

"She was one of those community souls that was just so invested in doing good things for the community. She was a wonderful woman in that regard, she never stopped trying.

"She comes from an outstandingly capable family as well, from Whangaparaoa on the East Coast."

The riot

On Friday, December 7, 1984 - 34 years ago yesterday - Grindlay dressed in her Māori warden uniform and went to help out at Thank God It's Over! - a free concert at Auckland's Aotea Square.

Her son had persuaded her to take him and other young people.

Dave Dobbyn's D.D. Smash was the headline act, with The Mockers and Herbs, in what was billed as a summer celebration of the end of the academic year.

Even before Dobbyn's band went on stage, some in the crowd of 10,000 had started hurling bottles at the police. Some were arrested. More police arrived - in riot gear

Soon after D.D. Smash took the stage the power went off. Dobbyn said, according to a Ministry of Culture and Heritage history website: "I wish those riot squad guys would stop w***ing and put their little batons away." He was later acquitted on a charge of inciting the riot.

The bottle-throwing continued and the police ordered the concert to stop at 8.10pm.

D.D. Smash grabbed their gear and fled to their van.

The booze-fuelled trouble spilled on to Queen St. Police were called in from around the city and their number swelled to 260.

The rioters - about 100 in total - would charge the police, and the police would charge back.

Grindlay didn't like to dwell on the riot, but in 2009 she told the Herald it wasn't street kids or gang members who started the trouble; the young bottle-throwers were mainly well dressed and from middle-class families.

After the initial stampede, she took a lost little boy, whom she had protected, to the central police station, then returned to Aotea Square, worried about young mothers and their babies.

She joined a chain of people trying to calm the violence on Queen St outside the Civic Theatre.

The young blond man in the photo said to her, "do you think we could do something about this?" She replied, "Well, we can try."

He took her hand and the old man said, "I'm coming too."

"There was one guy that had a big 10-gallon drum there and he wanted to throw it over my head and I'm saying 'no you don't. Don't do that, turn around and go home'." The man looked ashamed, put the drum down, apologised and disappeared into the crowd.

But the impromptu peace march, in front of a line of outnumbered police, couldn't stop the rioters, who smashed and looted their way down Queen St.

It was 10pm before the police wrested back control from the mob. Cars had been set alight, windows smashed, and shops wrecked. Dozens of people were injured. About 120 people were arrested. The insurance bill reached $2.8 million.

"At the time I was not scared. You got no time to be scared," Grindlay recalled on Māori Television.

She was awarded the Queen's Service Medal for her bravery in the riot, and the Auckland City Council's Good Citizen award.

Liquor controls were tightened after a Government-appointed inquiry into the riot criticised the ready access people had to alcohol and the presence of glass bottles.

The police got more protective equipment and long batons.

The Māori wardens

Māori wardens are guided by principles including peace, respect and support. Grindlay's Māori warden service, which continued until not long before her death, included supporting people at the North Shore District Court.

"She was a mover and shaker right across Auckland. She was quite a staunch lady," said Lyvia Marsden, a friend of Grindlay's.

"She has done a lot of work in the community and as a Māori warden dedicated herself to the wellness of Māori," said Marsden, who leads a subsidiary of health and social services organisation Te Puna Hauora O Te Raki Paewhenua.

Grindlay was a Te Puna board member for more than 20 years.

She also stood as a New Zealand First candidate in North Shore at the 1999 election.

"From 1993 to 1999 she certainly was an active [party] member," said former NZ First MP Pita Paraone, who is chairman of the Waitangi National Trust.

"She used to travel to Waitangi to assist the local wardens up there in trying to make Waitangi Day a peaceful day."

"She certainly had a commitment to the wellbeing and welfare of her community."