Peter Rolleston (1949-2007)
First published June 7, 2022 on the Tauranga Historical Society Blog: https://taurangahistorical.blogspot.com/2022/06/peter-rolleston-1949-2007.html
Ko Mauao te maunga
Ko Tauranga te moana
Ko Tākitimu ko Mātaatua ngā waka
Ko Ngāti Ranginui ko Ngāi Te Rangi ko Ngāti Pūkenga ngā iwi
Photo supplied by Bay of Plenty Times
Peter Rolleston – A soft-spoken and humble leader, advocate for Māori, selfless spokesperson, historian, researcher, lecturer, beloved husband, father of 5, grandfather of 9, and great-grandfather of 3.
I would like to start by sharing my earliest memory that I have of koro (grandfather) as a bare-footed child roaming freely the rural paddocks and kiwifruit orchards at Taranaki Lane under the watchful eye of Whaaro Pā in Pāpāmoa. Every morning koro had a routine, this routine consisted of a cup of instant coffee, a rolled port royal cigarette, and approximately 20-40min to gaze out to Pāpāmoa hills and Whaaro pā. He didn’t talk, he certainly didn’t sing, all he did was sit in silence and think. Perhaps he was reflecting on the affairs affecting Māori occurring at the time. Unfortunately, this is one of those mysteries of life that will remain unsolved. I often wondered what he was thinking. So, one day after much deliberation and curiosity about my observations of koro’s repetitive and consistent routine I decided to intrude into this sacred space and as any hoha (annoying) child would do, I asked him “koro what are you doing”? While sipping on his cup of coffee and puffing on his cigarette he told me a story about him and his good friend ‘Batman’ and how he’d walk all day up into the Pāpāmoa hills to visit Batman at his cave for a beer, and I believed him. Unbeknown to him this story would have a profound impact on my life as a young child and how I would grow up to view the world. Obviously, after some time I realized this was a fictional story, but at the time it gave me a deep sense of undeniable belief and hope. To this day I wonder what was the point of him sharing that story with me? What was his intention? Or what was the hidden message beneath the joke of his story?
Peter Rolleston a former freezing worker at Rangiuru, a skilled practitioner in karate, and a gifted kaiwhao (carver) was an eloquent communicator; he could educate and influence people’s thinking. In 1994 he was asked to research and write the Pirirākau Raupatu Report for the Waitangi Tribunal Wai 227 claim and to his and the benefit of the hapū (sub-tribe) inherited a wealth of knowledge. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Peter became a strong supportive pillar for Pirirākau hapū when it came to resource management and cultural heritage matters relating to the environment within Pirirākau rohe (region). He played a pivotal role in the Pirirākau Waitangi Tribunal hearings in 1998 when the Crown came to Tauranga to hear the pain and grief inflicted upon Tauranga iwi/hapū. Peter continued to fight for the mana motuhake (independence) and tino rangatiratanga (self-determination) of Pirirākau during the Heybridge Development hearings in the Environment court in 2000 and 2002 opposing the development proposal by Heybridge to build a mariner at Tahataharoa, Te Puna (burial site of the eponymous tīpuna of Pirirākau, Tūtereinga). Employed by the University of Waikato he facilitated lectures teaching the history of Tauranga Moana as part of the Continuing Education Department in response to his values-based obligation to educate the wider Tauranga community on its history to inform a brighter future for its residents. On top of all of this, Peter was committed to his hapū by ensuring he passed on his valuable knowledge to the next generation. But why?
Kaitiakitanga – Guardianship
“The traditional characteristics of kaitiakitanga are linked to a complex social, cultural, physical (economic) and spiritual system established through tribal association to particular taonga or natural taonga, i.e., land and water. The primary responsibility of kaitiaki is to protect the mauri of taonga in a way, which ensures it is passed on to future generations” (Rolleston, 2004, p. 24). Peter believed that to protect and maintain knowledge significant to Pirirākau hapū, there was a direct correlation to the value of kaitiakitanga. Like his analogy of walking up the Pāpāmoa hills, he understood that one must walk the land, feel the soil beneath the feet, and breathe its air to truly recognise the sacred essence of knowledge. Pirirākau tribal members are kaitiaki (stewards) of knowledge learned, inherited, and entrusted with; that they may pass it on to the next generation for the purposes of identity continuity and survival, and mana motuhake (self-autonomy). “Pirirakau history and tikanga is unique. Traditional knowledge… helped Pirirakau maintain their unique identity. This intellectual knowledge was acquired and developed over generations through evolvement and adaptation. The protection of this knowledge is an intrinsic part of respecting rights to land, culture, and tribal lore. Without land and the accumulated knowledge that comes from the use of land, Pirirakau could not survive” (2004, p. 32-33).
Kanohi kitea – Seen face
Smith (2008) defines kanohi kitea as “being seen by the people – showing your face, turning up” (p. 15), “present yourself to people face to face” (p. 120). Kanohi kitea is an integral part of maintaining relationships with people and the land. What Peter teaches us is that ‘distance’ as a researcher is not compatible with Māori cultural values and how they are executed. ‘Walking up the Pāpāmoa hills to present your face’ is a big part of whanaungatanga – maintaining relationships, connections, and inclusivity with those being researched. He suggests that showing your face to those involved and the kaupapa (task) reveals one’s commitment and investment in that relationship. Whanaungatanga is important to Māori and therefore important to me as an indigenous insider-researcher about to start a research project that will involve my hapū Pirirākau. Whanaungatanga forces the knowledge collected to remain under the ownership of those being researched. “Korero and consultation with the hapu concerned is necessary to facilitate a sense of inclusion and ownership of the korero for them” (Rolleston, 2000, p. 1). Linda Tuhiwai Smith concurs with Peter’s views when she elaborates in her book Decolonizing Methodologies how opposite traditional Western paradigms of research are to a kaupapa Māori methodology. She says research ‘through imperial eyes’ affirms that “distance is most important as it implies a neutrality and objectivity on behalf of the researcher” (2008, p. 56).
Koro Peter Rolleston’s work never fails to empower me daily. His works constantly remind me of my role as an Indigenous insider-researcher when engaging with hapū or iwi. It is about service under the cloak of humility to the hapū for the greater benefit of all. Peter was a staunch believer in the power of knowledge and sharing that knowledge. “Oral tradition should not be downplayed. Our culture was an oral one. Knowledge was recorded and retained in speeches, songs, and sayings. This is how our traditions were passed on, from generation to generation. For us today they are as real and as important as any recorded archaeological site” (Rolleston, 2002, p. 12).
Perhaps there was meaning in his story of Batman after all… Kaitiakitanga, whanaungatanga, and kanohi kitea are key values to hold fast too.
- Rolleston, P. (1997). Te Raupatu o te Pirirākau: Pirirākau Historical Report. Waitangi Tribunal (Report no. Wai 227). Retrieved from Waitangi Tribunal Te Rōpu Whakamana o te Tiriti o Waitangi
- Rolleston, P. (199). Te Raupatu o te Pirirākau: Pirirākau Historical Report. Waitangi Tribunal (Report no. Wai 227). Retrieved from Waitangi Tribunal Te Rōpu Whakamana o te Tiriti o Waitangi
- Rolleston, P. (2000). Local History Lecture Series. [Lecture notes]. University of Waikato.
- Rolleston, P. (2000). Papamoa Pa Complex – A Cultural Heritage Report for Tauranga District Council and Western Bay of Plenty District Council. Retrieved from Tauranga City Council
- Rolleston, P. (2001). Papamoa East – A Cultural Heritage Report for Tauranga District Council. Retrieved from Tauranga City Council
- Rolleston, P. (2002). Brief of Evidence of Peter Rolleston [Brief of Evidence presented by Peter Rolleston at the Environment Court in Wellington in the matter of an appeal to Heybridge Development Limited].
- Rolleston, P. (2004). Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho: Pirirākau Hapū Environmental Management Plan. Retrieved April 12, 2022, from https://www.westernbay.govt.nz/repository/libraries/id:25p4fe6mo17q9stw0v5w/hierachy/council/working-with-maori/hapu-iwi-managementplans/documents/Pirirakau%20Hapu%20Management%20Plan.pdf
Gifford, A. (2007, May 09). Pirirakau loses historian Rolleston. Waatea News Update Blogspot. Retrieved April 28, 2022. from http://waatea.blogspot.com/2007/05/pirirakau-loses-historian-rolleston.html
Three of Peter’s literature; The Pāpāmoa Pā Complex and Pāpāmoa East can be accessed on Pae Korokī here and the Pirirākau Hapū Management Plan 2004 edition can be accessed in the Māori reference section of He Puna Wānanga at He Puna Manawa. For more information about this and other items in our collection, visit Pae Korokī or email the Heritage & Research Team: Research@tauranga.govt.nz
Written by Elisha Rolleston, Mātanga Taonga Tuku Iho Māori: Heritage Specialist – Māori, at Tauranga City Libraries.