Rotorua mourns 'demigod of tourism' Huru Maika

Huru Maika’s eyes were deep-set and wide, perfect for pūkana.

“He didn’t really have to say much. They would tell you everything, with one look,” his eldest daughter Wanda Ashby told the Rotorua Daily Post this week.

“They also told you whether you were in the sh*t or not,” she laughed.

It had been two days since Huru died, but Wanda’s voice was strong and steady as she spoke of Huru’s 62 years in Rotorua, showcasing its rich history and tikanga Māori to the world.


, Rotorua mourns 'demigod of tourism' Huru Maika, WorldNews | Travel Wire News
Huru Maika playing Tūhoto Ariki at the Buried Village anniversary of the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 2008. Photo / File

It wasn’t until Wanda was asked to describe Huru as a father, that she took a long pause and sighed.

“He was a loving dad, and he was supportive. I think he was proud of all of us. He certainly always told us that. We always knew that he loved us. He was a great man.”

Huru Maika died surrounded by whānau on the night of December 29 after battling illness for two years.

, Rotorua mourns 'demigod of tourism' Huru Maika, WorldNews | Travel Wire News
In 2002, Huru Maika began the Buried Village’s commemorative service for the Tarawera eruption with a song. Photo / File

He was one of 15 brothers and sisters raised at Ngapuna, the eldest being the late Rangi Maika QSO.

Huru never moved away from Rotorua.

When Wanda was born in the late 70s, the family was living at Wai-O-Tapu.

She said it was a “pretty fun household”.

“Dad was a bit of a joker too, but he was always pretty positive.”

, Rotorua mourns 'demigod of tourism' Huru Maika, WorldNews | Travel Wire News
Huru Maika’s grandfather was a Te Wairoa chief trapped in the Tarawera eruption, but here he proudly shows tourists through the Buried Village in 2002. Photo / File

Huru’s parents were guides at Whakarewarewa, and he would “tag along” talking to tourists as a child.

His great-grandfather was the paramount chief of Tūhourangi at the time of the 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption, so Huru’s whakapapa paved the way for him to initiate the guided tours at Buried Village.

He spent his last two decades as a full-time guide there.

, Rotorua mourns 'demigod of tourism' Huru Maika, WorldNews | Travel Wire News
Buried Village head guide Huru Maika gears up for the children’s school holiday programme in 2005. Photo / File

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In 2008 Huru told the Rotorua Daily Post that retelling Te Wairoa’s stories created a “very special feeling for him”.

Elite Adventure Tours director Trent Neilson also employed Huru as a guide in his last seven years of life.

He said, “Huru was like a demigod of tourism”.

“Anyone who was anyone knew him. He was always requested as a guide. Always in demand. He just had this beautiful, humble way of interacting with tourists. He took thousands of them.”

, Rotorua mourns 'demigod of tourism' Huru Maika, WorldNews | Travel Wire News
Trent Neilson from Elite Adventures. Photo / File

For Neilson “Huru was a window into the Māori world”.

“He was such an important man for me, a best friend. A phenomenal ambassador. I was blessed to know him. And he was so talented with music and singing, and really cared for people of all ages and backgrounds. The reviews we got were just beautiful.”

For Wanda Ashby, Huru’s legacy “is all about whānau”.

He loved to feed, heal and entertain people.

“He made everything special when he was involved. I think he realised that he had quite a healing personality and voice as well,” Wanda said.

, Rotorua mourns 'demigod of tourism' Huru Maika, WorldNews | Travel Wire News
From left, Kingi Biddle, Mark Wirihana, Trevor Maxwell, Huru Maika, Willie Royal, Taini Morrison and Warwick Morehau honour the gallantry of Lance Sergeant Haane Manahi in 2007. Photo / File

“When my kuia was in hospital for about six months, he would go there every night and sing to her and the patients of the other rooms would come out and sit in the hallway.

“And what’s really stink at the moment is that he was the one at the tangi that would call in at night and play some waiata. Every night he did that for people. So it’s really hard to replicate that for him.”

Huru would even go to St Chad’s and the Te Whānau Tokotokorangi Trust to sing waiata with people with disabilities.

Huru was also the Tūhourangi trustee on Te Kotahitangi o Te Arawa Waka Fisheries Trust Board, up until his death.

, Rotorua mourns 'demigod of tourism' Huru Maika, WorldNews | Travel Wire News
2016 Conservation Minister Maggie Barry, centre, with Ken Raureti, left, and Huru Maika at Lake Tarawera. Photo / File

Wanda said many people didn’t realise Huru was sick, “because he kept on doing everything he always did, despite it”.

“He carried on attending all the hui and all the tangi, in his last month he attended a tangi here. There were some quite rough days but he still did those things. He realised he had that ability to make people happy and smile in some really sad times, and that’s just going to be so missed.”

Huru leaves behind dozens of mokopuna and mokopuna tuarua, his wife Ngaroma, four sons and two daughters, and his “third daughter”, Harmony, his dog.

“I think she was the favourite. There were seven children including her,” Wanda joked this week.

Huru was brought on Te Pākira Marae at Whakarewarewa on December 30, where his service will start at 11am tomorrow, followed by a burial at St Paul’s urupā at Ngapuna.