Eulogy for Dr Hazel Riseborough

Dr Hazel Riseborough, 3 March 1930 – 8 January 2021

Dr Hazel Riseborough passed away peacefully at her home in Taupō in January this year, aged 90. Hazel’s tangi was held at Parihaka. Hazel had a very rich and varied life. Among other things Hazel was an historian, published author, Alumni of Massey University, wool-classer, translator, traveller, guardian of the bush, and friend to many.

This eulogy was given at Hazel’s funeral at Parihaka on 12 January 2021 by Dr Therese Crocker. Therese is honoured to have been Hazel’s friend for over 30 years.

It is with a sense of honour and some trepidation that I stand before you today to speak about Dr Hazel Riseborough – my friend, inspiration and mentor.

The trepidation I speak of is because Hazel was many things to many people. Some of you will know Hazel through different aspects of her life: perhaps Hazel the wool-classer, perhaps Hazel the friend, or relation, perhaps you knew her as a scholar, an historian. Or maybe your connection to Hazel was through her conservation efforts.

In her life Hazel wore many hats, was deeply involved in a number of different careers and communities, and her relationships in those communities were deep and varied. Hazel lived many lifetimes in her 90 years, she packed a lot in. And while I want to acknowledge all of those aspects, and all of those connections, at the same time I recognise that there is no way I can do justice to all of those threads in this one kōrero.

My connection with Hazel began over 30 years ago – in early March 1990 I attended my first history lecture at Massey University as a fresh-faced 18-year-old from Pātea, with Hazel as my lecturer. It was the first lecture that Hazel gave as a lecturer in the history department and it was also her 60th birthday.

Over the years, as I studied under Hazel our friendship developed. My relationship and friendship with Hazel has been one of the most significant in my life. In turn, Hazel referred to me as ‘The Child’. I first travelled here to Parihaka with Hazel in 1992, when she gave her lecture ‘Parihaka and the Historians’. All of that gives some context to why it is that I am standing before you today.

Hazel grew up in Wadestown, Wellington and was educated in Wellington. Hazel then attended Massey Agricultural College graduating with a diploma of agriculture in 1950, and graduating top of the class in a diploma of wool and wool classing in 1953.

Hazel has maintained friendships with many of her fellow students from this time at Massey and has always been proud of her involvement with the early days of Massey University.

Hazel enjoyed travel; she undertook her OE in the days when the only way to get to Europe was by ship. Hazel attended language school in Italy and became fluent in Italian. She remained working in Italy for a number of years.

On her return to New Zealand Hazel worked as a translator for the Italian company that worked on the Turangi hydro power schemes. It was during this time that Hazel bought her property at Pūkawa on the southern shores of Lake Taupō where she retired to in 1996.

Hazel returned to study in the early 1980s – this time a Bachelor of Arts, and Honours in Māori studies and Social Anthropology. It was during this time that Hazel began studying te reo Māori. It was after completing this study, while working at Massey University that the subject for Hazel’s PhD thesis was suggested to her…and is the reason that we are here at Parihaka today. Hazel completed her thesis, entitled ‘Policies and Prophets: Aspects of Government Native Policy in Taranaki 1878-1884’, in 1987. Hazel carried out further work on her thesis, which was then published as Days of Darkness in 1989.

As many of you will be aware, Days of Darkness traces Crown actions, policy and legislation in Taranaki, with particular focus on Parihaka for the year 1878-1884. Hazel also presented her research as evidence before the Waitangi Tribunal when it sat here in Taranaki. Through meticulous research, Hazel was able to use official Crown correspondence, parliamentary debates, newspapers and legislation to piece together the actions of the Crown in this area. Actions, that the Crown has now rightly apologised for, but at the time of Hazel’s research and writing were virtually unknown outside this region. I would just like to remind everyone that this was long before Crown apologies and Treaty settlements were part of the national conversation, this was in the early days of personal computers, and certainly well before internet searches were an option. This level of research takes physical dedication, attention to detail and commitment and Hazel demonstrated all those skills to an extremely high standard.

Hazel built strong relationships here at Parihaka. She returned on a number of occasions to speak and be part of the peace festivals, that were widely attended.

It was the year after Days of Darkness was published that Hazel began lecturing in the History Department at Massey University and where (as I mentioned earlier) myself and other students (including Dion Tuuta who is also here today) were fortunate to be taught by Hazel. As a lecturer Hazel was thorough, hardworking and passionate about New Zealand history – particularly focussing on Crown-Māori relations in the late nineteenth-century. We thrived under Hazel’s guidance. But she also had high expectations of us all. For some of us, the mentorship that Hazel offered and the confidence she had in us have influenced our careers.

After retiring from Massey in the 1996 Hazel moved permanently to her house at Pūkawa. But retirement did not mean slowing down for Hazel. During this time, Hazel undertook a number of contracts to do research for different Waitangi Tribunal inquiries.

At Pūkawa Hazel had more time to dedicate to preserving the bush life, which she loved so much. Together with just a few others she initiated a pest-control programme in the bush around Pūkawa. This soon developed into the Pūkawa Wildlife Trust. Together with knowledge from the Department of Conservation, systematic trapping of the area was established, and the bush and birdlife began to thrive. Some of us have had the pleasure of experiencing the abundance of birdlife that was evident from Hazel’s beautiful home in Pūkawa. That Trust is still operating and have a permanent trapline named after Hazel. Members of the Trust are also gathering this afternoon to remember Hazel.

Hazel had always been a keen tramper and was able to become part of a regular tramping/walking group, from which she made many special friends.

Hazel then turned her research skills and expertise to more personal research. In 2006 her second book, Ngamatea, was published. This book traces the history of the high-country station located on the Napier-Taihape road. Hazel travelled around interviewing people who had worked on Ngamatea over many years. She supplemented this with extensive archival research. The resulting book is an incredible testament to Hazel.

The next significant published work Hazel undertook, her third book Shear Hard Work: A history of New Zealand shearing, was published in 2010 on her 80th birthday. This one really was hard work – Hazel travelled the country visiting wool sheds, interviewing shearers, rousies and farm-owners, she attended shearing world record attempts, and the golden shears. Hazel reconnected with many from Massey Agricultural College days. The result was another meticulous book written in Hazel’s clear style and great humour, which told the history of an industry that we know is significant but hasn’t had much academic attention.

About eight years ago Hazel relocated to Taupō. She had come to the sad realisation that the state of her health meant she could no longer remain in the isolation of Pūkawa. But there were benefits to moving to Taupō. Hazel became part of a regular writers group, she often received visitors who were traveling through the centre of the island. In particular, Hazel enjoyed her visits from Ronnie Tawhai and her group from Massey University who would call in and meet with Hazel on their annual visit to Waitangi.

Over these years my relationship with Hazel deepened further, as I became more and more involved in Hazel’s care. In the last few years my husband Graeme and I have made monthly visits to Hazel. And these have always been a pleasure

Hazel had many friends and connections throughout the country and over the world. She was a keen traveller and dedicated correspondent. I remember in 1999 as the millennium loomed and many were worried about the Y2K bug and its potential impacts, Hazel made plans to visit Pitt Island, on the Chathams – the first place in New Zealand to see the new millennium, permanent population of about 10 – 1 of whom was a long-term friend of Hazel’s.

As I mentioned at the beginning Hazel was many things to many people, she was a scholar, a lecturer, she had a keen sense of humour, an incredible intellect, she was fiercely loyal to friends and family.

Hazel has left a lasting legacy here at Parihaka and to New Zealand history as a whole. In everything she did, Hazel was meticulous, dedicated and thorough.

I feel incredibly humble and proud to have called Hazel my friend over the past 30 years. It has been an honour and a privilege to be ‘The Child’.

Ka mutu aku kōrero i kōnei.

Huri noa i te whare, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Haere rā e kui, haere, haere, haere.