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Seventy people gathered to pay their respects to Queenstown rafting guide Moana-Roa “Chief” Haare on Sunday and a section of Shotover River rapids have been renamed in his honour.

Mr Haare, 62, died while leading a commercial rafting trip on the Queenstown river on Friday.

His funeral is today.

His raft had overturned but he collapsed later on the river bank. Police have since confirmed preliminary post mortem results suggest he died due to a medical event.

Maritime New Zealand has suspended its investigation.

Queenstown Rafting guides, staff, former guides, friends and family went in to the top of Mr Haare’s favourite section of the river on Sunday, above the area where he died.

Fellow guides had designed and carved a memorial wooden plaque and carved into two paddles, which were placed at an old miner’s chimney at the side of the river.

 

Queenstown Rafting general manager Luke Taylor said: “It’s not easily visible for those normally heading down the river, but our guides will see it on their way back from checking the river rapids and remember him every day.”

The company has decided to rename the area of rapids known as “Mother” to the “Moana-Roa Chief” section in his honour.

A karakia (prayer), followed by an emotional haka, were carried out before leaves, flowers and ferns were cast into the river.

 

The group then attended a whakawaatea (blessing) in front of Queenstown Rafting’s base on the Shotover River by Ngai Tahu kaumatua, Darren Rewi, to clear the way and allow the wairua (spirits) to move on their journey to the spiritual homeland.

The plaque was put in place and the guides then lined up and supported the family, then each other, as they gathered to pay their respects.

Mr Taylor paid tribute to his staff.

“I’d like to thank my entire team for their professionalism and the way they have all stepped up and supported each other.

“It’s been incredibly hard for us all, particularly with the inference that Chief’s death was as a result of an accident, when we knew early on that this was not the case.

“We’re pleased that the police have released the preliminary post mortem results which suggest a medical event and that Maritime New Zealand has suspended its investigation.”

Queenstown Rafting will resumed operations on Monday.

The final cause of death will be determined by the coroner.