For Pita (Peter) Heremia Anaru Anzac Day 2014's Ohinemutu Dawn Parade held a particular poignancy.

As dawn broke over Muruika Urupa (cemetery) a plaque was dedicated to the memory of his uncle, Albert Paul Anaru, who as a member of the Maori Pioneer Battalion sacrificed his life on "some foreign field". That field was in Flanders at the height of 1917's bloody battle of Messines.

Private Anaru's body was never found, the plaque commemorating him touchingly reads "His final resting place is known only to God".

However that may not necessarily be so. A 2012 newspaper report of a farmer finding a soldier's remains close to the battlefield, along with New Zealand shoulder badges, bolstered Peter's belief the unknown soldier's body could be that of his uncle Albert.


By placing the commemorative plaque at the Muruika obelisk Peter's achieved his ambition to reunite Albert with his younger brothers Wi and Tene Anaru, World War II's 28th Maori Battalion members, now interred at Muruika.

"For many years I've wanted to bring his wairua [spirit] home, now it's been achieved."

Here Our People offers up a mea culpa to Peter.

He thought we only wanted him to talk about his uncle, we didn't; it's been suggested many times over that we profile him but this dignified man's always demurred.

However we couldn't let our time with him pass without honing in on his own contributions to queen, country and community. They're so multi-faceted they've been recognised with a New Zealand Order of Merit and, at 35, Jaycees named him as one of the country's three most outstanding young men.

Like his uncles, warrior blood runs in Peter Anaru's veins. Joining the Territorial Army in his teens, he transferred to the regular force serving in Malaya (now Malaysia) when it was in the grip of guerrilla warfare with Chinese communists.

As a platoon commander the trained teacher served deep in the jungle, his tracking skills bringing a Mention in Dispatches (MID). Unearthing just what this was for was akin to cracking a top secret code.

Eyeballing us with his most steely principal's stare he sternly admonishes us not to glorify him.


Documentation isn't so reticent recording how Lieutenant Anaru showed "the highest qualities of jungle leadership, tactical and navigational skills tracking terrorists".

They were skills which enabled his platoon to rid Malaya of more than one of its 'most wanted'.

After Malaya Peter returned to the Territorials, retiring with the rank of Major.

Not too long after his jungle warfare days, he and his late wife, Beverley (nee Grant) were back in South East Asia, recruited by the Commonwealth-led Colombo Plan to establish a teachers' training college in Sarawak.

The couple met while he was at Auckland Training College, Bev at Ardmore.

As a tightly-knit twosome they taught across the wider Rotorua region, both becoming principals at separate Kawerau schools. He bats off our speculation that must have led to stiff competition between them.

"Goodness no, we always worked together as a team, sharing one another's ideas, aspirations."

To complement Peter's NZOM Bev received a Queen's Service Medal for her dedication to education.

Peter treasures the hand-made card she presented him with when his honour was announced. It's beautifully inscribed with the words 'Service Before Self'.

"Receiving a compliment like that from my wife remains the highlight of my life."

Notching up his 84th birthday on May 23, there're a lot of years for him to walk us through.

The son of Te Arawa Trust Board secretary, Karauria (Claude) Anarau and his wife Hanahira, he was one of a whanau of seven, growing up beside the Utuhina Stream on Old Taupo Rd.

Despite being in the then Rotorua High School's 1st X1 and 1st XV, he soft peddles claims he was one of its leading athletes.

"Then you only had two sporting choices, rugby in the winter, cricket in the summer."

Forget teachers' claims they didn't play up in their own school days. Peter's secondary years coincided with Word War II, Rotorua was overrun by American servicemen, an easy touch for the illicit cigarettes he and his mates smoked in the school's macrocapa hedge.

Religion was paramount in his upbringing. "My grandparents instilled religion into our parents, they instilled it in us."

Peter served the "old" Haupapa St St Luke's as an altar and choir boy.

In Peter's youth what's now the CBD was a popular place to live. "I used to mow Duncan Steel's lawn on the corner of Tutanekai and Eruera Sts for half a crown [25 cents]."

The Sport of Kings has always fascinated Peter, he's spent many an hour at Arawa Park; as a syndicate member he's owned and raced his share of thoroughbreds. One, Raffraichir, was good enough to go to Hong Kong "but not good enough to win".

Probably it's the educationalist in him but it's his involvement with the Ngati Whakaue Education Endowment Trust Board that he ranks as one of the pursuits he's most dedicated to. "For an organisation that donates more than $1 million a year to education locally from Kohanga Reo to tertiary studies it's very undervalued."

Born: Rotorua, 1930.
Education: Rotorua Primary and High Schools, Auckland Teachers' College.
Family: "A large, extended whanau."
Interests: Fishing "until arthritis put paid to that,", horse racing, looking after two homes (in town and at Lake Rotoiti), "my community".
Community Involvement: Former registrar JPs' Association, ex-president and life member Rotorua Racing Club, Rotorua Club, life member Maori Golf Association. "I've never played golf but got roped in to organise their tournaments." Deputy chairman Arawa Returned Services League and Ngati Whakaue Education Endowment Trust, Fellow NZ Education Institute, First Sovereign Trust director, trustee Muruika Anuwhenua Trust, Vestry member St Faith's church (as was his father).
Honours and decorations: NZOM, ED (Efficiency Decoration), MID, JP (retired).
Personal Philosophy: "Helping people."