John Rochfort was born in England in 1832 and trained as a civil engineering under Isambard Brunel. He came to New Zealand in 1851 as a surveyor and was responsible for the discovery of gold and coal in the Buller and Denniston areas. Rochfort examined the port potential of all the West Coast rivers, laid out the town of Greymouth, and surveyed lines for the Rimutaka and Buller Gorge railways.
In 1883, he began the daunting task of investigating the proposed Main Trunk Railway route from Te Awamutu to Marton. He had to find his way through dense bush and mountainous country and deal with opposition from Maori. Three times his party was forced back at gunpoint and he was once held prisoner for three days. He persevered and the survey was completed in only fifteen months.
Rochfort died of a heart attack in 1893 while surveying the Mokau area and was buried in the Kihikihi Cemetery.
John Rochfort was inducted into the Te Awamutu Walk of fame in 2008.