Born in Wellington and raised in the Hawkes Bay and East Coast, Sir Rodney graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from Victoria University and was admitted to the bar in 1953. In 1978 he became a Queens Counsel, and sat on the High Court bench from 1983 to 1999.
He was awarded a knighthood for his services as a High Court judge in 2000, and was widely regarded as a wise and compassionate man.
Fluent in Te Reo, Sir Rodney made a huge contribution to Maori. His knowledge of Maoridom was invaluable to the judiciary, and he worked tirelessly with Ngai Tuhoe to keep ownership of Lake Waikaremoana in Maori hands. He had an ongoing passion for the rehabilitation of Maori prisoners and spent many years on the Mahi Tahi trust.
His long career included heading some of the most prominent inquiries and reports in New Zealand, such as the inquiry into the Abbotsford landslip, procedures at Oakley Hospital, the resolution of abuse complaints from former Lake Alice Hospital patients, a review of the Police Complaints Authority, and a report for the Ministry of Education on the support of Kohanga Reo.
Sir Rodney is survived by a sister and his nieces and nephews.