2 Jul 2013

Maureen Waaka dies aged 70

8:50 am on 2 July 2013

The first Maori woman to be crowned Miss New Zealand has died at the age of 70.

A long-serving Rotorua district councillor, Maureen Waaka died on Monday morning in the Rotorua hospital surrounded by whanau.

She had suffered a stroke last month while working in Auckland.

Rotorua district deputy mayor Trevor Maxwell said her death is a sad loss for Te Arawa whanui and the district council.

Mr Maxwell said he was shocked to hear the news of her death because he thought she was recovering well when he saw her last Friday. He said his heart sank when he heard she had died.

Mrs Waaka served on the council for 18 years, and won Miss New Zealand title in 1962.

Mr Maxwell says she was a representative of numerous other organisations, including the district health board and the Problem Gambling Foundation.

He said he will remember Mrs Waaka as a person who strived for her people. She was organised, punctual and years later she was still as beautiful as when she was crowned Miss New Zealand, he said.

Mr Maxwell sends his condolences to Mrs Waka's husband John, and their children and mokopuna.

Her body was taken to Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua on Monday afternoon.