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Museum Musings of 21 October 2014

BY Richard Gates

Mercury Bay | Wed October 22, 2014

The recent passing of Ngati Hei kaumatua, Peter Tiki Johnston is a great loss to the local community and many from further afield. Academics and people from all walks of life sought out his knowledge and expertise on early Maori settlement in Te Whanganui-O-Hei (now Mercury Bay), as well as latter day history of the inter-race relationship challenges that followed the arrival of Pakeha settlers on the Coromandel.

The Mercury Bay Museum Trust Board, of which Peter was a much valued trustee over a number of years, share in this loss and fellow board members and Museum staff will sorely miss his wise counsel and advice.

Peter was a quiet, thoughtful and multifaceted personality with an encyclopedic knowledge of the history and culture of the local iwi, Ngati Hei. He was a key participant in progressing the Hauraki Collective's settlement of historic claims as Ngati Hei claims manager. He was also active in numerous environmental issues, supporting protests against the development of New Chums beach and instrumental in establishing the Te Whanganui-O-Hei Marine Reserve adjacent Cathedral Cove.

Notwithstanding his many talents, Peter was a modest man of influence who was never confrontational. He never sought the limelight and, through his quietly measured and empathetic manner, achieved his ends through reasoned argument founded on a well-researched understanding of local history - both Maori and Pakeha. Similarly, Peter was a font of knowledge when it came to Maori archaeological sites in the Mercury Bay area. Indeed he answered many a request from the Museum to provide interested overseas visitors with guided tours of the most significant historic sites. His good-humoured talks were always well received.

However, there was much more to Peter. He, the warm hearted practicing Christian, talented musician, history researcher and family man with a wry sense of humour. Along with his wife, Ros, Peter was an inveterate traveler, respected and loved by a wide range of friends, both here and overseas. Eventually Peter and Ros returned to his Ngati Hei roots when they decided to move from Auckland and bring up their growing family at Te Whitianga a Kupe in Whanganui-O-Hei, the traditional home of Peter's ancestors whom he so revered. Peter, the gentle man, husband, father and grandfather who contributed so much to the community at large will be fondly remembered by all who knew him.

E noho rã, ma te Atua koe e tiaki Peter Tiki Johnston.

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