Historian and writer Don Stafford has lived and worked for most of his life in Rotorua, where he is highly respected as an authority on the area and its Arawa people. His book Te Arawa: A History of the Arawa People, published in 1967, is acknowledged as a major work of scholarship. He was the author of 22 other books and was Rotorua Museum's founding curator.More info
Don has contributed to other important projects in the area including the City of Rotorua Museum, which he helped establish in the late 1960s. He also helped redevelop the Tikitere thermal area into one of Rotorua's major attractions, and was involved with the restoration of St Faith's Church, Ohinemutu, and Te Runanga Tea House in Government Gardens.
Don Stafford is also a regular broadcaster and lecturer. He was awarded the MBE in 1982, and in 1993 received the CBE and an honorary doctorate from the University of Waikato. He lived most of his life in Rotorua and sadly passed away in the Rotorua Hospital April 5th 2010, aged 82.
Jean Gardiner Batten
World-famous, record-breaking aviatrix Jean Batten was born in Rotorua on 15th September 15, 1909. She lived in Rotorua until she was four years old, when the family moved to Auckland.More info
Jean Batten established four world solo flying records in the mid 1930s, becoming the first woman to make the return flight from England to Australia, and to cross the South Atlantic Ocean
Her greatest triumph was her October 1936 flight from England to New Zealand . Twenty-eight year old Jean travelled 14,224 miles in 11 days 45 minutes to create a world-record which stood for 44 years. Between 1934 and 1937 she enjoyed huge international fame.
Jean lived in obscurity in the decades following World War II. In 1969, at the age of 60 and after the death of her beloved mother Ellen, Jean re-emerged onto the world scene, promoting the Concorde prototype and visiting a long-lost relative in New Zealand . Jean Batten died in Majorca in 1982. Her death (from an infection following a dog bite) and burial in an unmarked communal grave were not discovered until 1987.
Jean is remembered in Rotorua in a number of ways, including a street named jean Batten Place, a wingtip sculpture in Jean Batten Square behind the library in Arawa Street and also a millennium sculpture of Jean at the Rotorua Airport.
Makareti Papakura (Guide Maggie Papakura)
Born Margaret Patterson Thom, known as Maggie Papakura, was born in 1872 and lived with her Maori relatives, and absorbing knowledge of tribal forebears and history. She and her younger sister, Bella,then attended a number of schools including Hukarere in Napier.More info
Bubbles became an apprentice guide in the Whakarewarewa thermal area in 1936 and was licensed in 1938. She recalls that senior guides would walk slowly behind learners correcting behaviours. "Make sure you treat people how you'd like to be treated", and "Don't talk down to people", were rules instilled by mentors such as Bella Papakura.
From the 1970s Guide Bubbles took a leading role in training younger guides at the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute (now Te Puia). She earned high respect for her charm and knowledge, and was decorated for her services to her community. She retired in 1985. She served on the Rotorua Museum Kaumatua Liaison Council for many years. At the 2001 New Zealand Tourism Awards she was awarded the Sir Jack Newman award for her outstanding contribution to tourism. The following year she was awarded as a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Sadly, Bubbles passed away in 2006.
Rangitiara Dennan (Guide Rangi)
Rangitiara Dennan's sparkling conversation and depth of knowledge made her an internationally known and loved figure. Born in 1896 at Ngapuna, and grand-daughter of famous carver Tene Waitere, she recalls in her memoirs that the Tarawera eruption of 1886 cast a shadow over her early life.More info
She was a lonely and often ill child, and her links with the old world were evident in the fact that a tapu was placed on her before her birth. Education at Hukarere School was followed by a short teaching career, and in 1922 Rangi became a guide at Whakarewarewa.
For 44 years until her retirement in 1965, the name of Guide Rangi was linked with Whakarewarewa. She did much to raise the standards of tourist guiding and conducted many famous people around the geysers, silica terraces and mud pools. Her first royal client was the then Prince of Wales in 1920, and she made world headlines when she greeted Eleanor Roosevelt with a hongi. She escorted Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip around the valley in 1954. Her death in 1971 brought a colourful era of tourism to a close.
Known as the 'Maori Diva', Ana Hato was born and educated in Rotorua. She toured Australia in 1925 as a member of Guide Eileen's concert part, singing her way to wide acclaim. Performing with her cousin Dean Waretini, Ana made 14 recordings of traditional and contemporary Maori music.More info
Ana, who was known as a warm and generous woman, formed her own concert party in 1933, travelling widely in New Zealand . She contributed to wartime patriotic funds, and to the Roman Catholic Church. Ana battled illness for many years and died in her late forties in 1953.
Sir Howard Morrison
Renowned entertainer and Maori leader Howard Morrison was born in Rotorua in 1935 and educated at Te Aute College. He worked as a surveyor's assistant before forming the Howard Morrison Quartet in the 1950s.More info
Other members of the original group were Noel King, Wi Wharekura and Gerry Merito. The group's first record, which included the songs "My Old Man's an All Black" and " Battle of Waikato ", was released in 1958 and sold 78,000 copies.
After the quartet disbanded in 1965 Sir Howard began a solo career, touring South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand , and starring in movies and television programmes. He was named Entertainer of the Year in 1986 and Entertainer of the Decade in 1989. The 1990s have seen him dubbed a Knight of the Realm; perhaps his most famous performance was with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa in the Rotorua Millennium concert "A Knight with a Dame", February 2000.
International film star Temuera Morrison was born in Rotorua in 1960. He performed in"Rangi's Catch", his first feature film, in 1972. "Other Halves" followed in 1984 and led to a 1986 GOFTA award for Best Supporting Actor.More info
"Mauri", "Never Say Die" and "The Piano" were followed in 1994 by "Once Were Warriors", a film that catapulted Temuera to international stardom and earned him the NZ Film and Television Award for Best Actor in Film and Entertainer of the Year award in 1994.
His international films include "Speed II", "6 Days and 7 Nights", "Vertical Limit" and "Crooked Earth". Temuera's most recent New Zealand appearance was the leading role of Jake in "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted", directed by Ian Mune in 1999.
Since 1983 he has appeared in numerous television productions including "Shark in the Park" and " Shortland Street ". Temuera received the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1996 for his services to drama.
International film star Cliff Curtis was born in Rotorua in 1968 and attended Western Heights High School . He worked for four years before breaking into the world of television and film. Cliff appeared in The Piano in 1992, followed by Desperate Remedies, a performance that won him a 1994 Best Supporting Actor in Film award in 1994.More info
His feature films include: Once Were Warriors (1993), Mana (1995), Deep Rising (1996), 6 Days and 7 Nights (1997), The Insider and Bringing Out The Dead (1998), Three Kings and Jubilee, for which he was awarded the Nokia Best Film Actor Award, (1999), Collateral Damage (2000), Training Day (2001) Die Hard 4.0 (2007).
Cliff also starred in the critically-acclaimed New Zealand made film Whale Rider in 2002 followed by Runaway Jury in 2003 plus Traffic and River Queen, filmed in New Zealand , in 2004.
Cliff Curtis He has also appeared in a wide range of stage and television productions including The Chosen, in 1999 for which he received a winner's award for Best Actor at the 1999 TV Guide NZ Television Awards.
Dr Arthur Stanley Wohlmann
The Rotorua Bath House was the brain-child of Dr Arthur Stanley Wohlmann. He was born in England in 1867 and graduated from Guy's Hospital in 1891.More info
After spending several years at the Royal Mineral Water Hospital at Bath in England , he was appointed superintendent of the Rotorua Sanatorium in 1902 as Balneologist to the New Zealand Government to advise on spa development. He devoted himself to the design concept for the new bath house, and wrote books on mineral waters and health resorts.
Dr Wolhmann served with the New Zealand Medical Corps as principal Medical Officer of the King George V Military Hospital, Rotorua. However he had to change his surname to Herbert in 1917 due to people's attitude to his German name. Dr Wohlmann left New Zealand in 1919, practiced privately in Kensington, London , and died in March 1944. His years in New Zealand were not mentioned in his obituary in the Times in London.