Parekura Horomia's political colleagues have paid tribute to the former Maori Affairs Minister, a day after his death at the age of 62.
Mr Horomia died yesterday at his home in Tolaga Bay. The exact cause of his death has not been revealed, but he was known to be ill.
The cortege will arrive at Hauiti Marae in Tolaga Bay tomorrow and Mr Horomia's funeral will be held at 10am on Saturday May 4.
Speaking on Firstline this morning, Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson this morning said Mr Horomia's death was "tremendously sad".
"We've lost one of our great leaders, our matua, as we called him inside the caucus.
"He was a chief, a leader across Maoridom, and I think there's a lot of people in New Zealand who are feeling this loss, especially his whanau."
Mr Horomia first entered Parliament in 1999, winning the newly formed Ikaroa-Rāwhiti electorate for Labour. In 2000 he took over the Maori Affairs portfolio from Dover Samuels, which he held until Labour's election loss in 2008.
Mr Robertson says Mr Horomia was a "terrific voice for Maori" who was respected by political friends and foes alike.
"He crossed all of those boundaries in politics. He was respected by political opponents, he was respected in the Maori world and the Pakeha world."
Prime Minister John Key agrees, calling Mr Horomia a "great bloke" who never had anything "nasty" to say about anyone.
"You always felt you could say hello – if I walked along he always said hello to me," Mr Key said on Firstline this morning.
"Thoroughly nice guy, worked incredibly hard for his people, and I don't think I ever heard him say a nasty or horrible thing, which is unusual given the Parliamentary debating chamber.
"He knew how to laugh at himself and laugh at others. Great bloke – I will miss him."
Fellow Labour MP Shane Jones first met Mr Horomia more than three decades ago, but says it wasn't until the "jumbo-sized guy" entered politics that he found his true calling.
"Parekura was an icon," Mr Jones said on Firstline this morning. "He came from humble origins and he rose to the highest political office, in terms of a Maori holding the Minister of Maori Affairs portfolio."
Mr Jones says Mr Horomia came from the "school of hard knocks", and was a "tireless worker for not only his iwi, but his nation".
"He knew no sense of prejudice. Sure, people often poked fun at him because he was a jumbo-sized guy, but despite his king-sized approach to life, believe you me, he covered the miles and he really did want to advance the prospects of his people."
That hard work ensured Mr Horomia achieved a lot in his eight years as Minister of Maori Affairs, says Mr Robertson.
"He can point to Maori Television, which he oversaw the development of; the expansion of iwi radio; under his watch, Maori educational opportunity increased – there were a lot more Maori in tertiary education; the kohanga reo movement flourished; he also kept his major cause in his life – which was jobs and employment for Maori.
"He used to very proudly talk about the fact that while he was the Minister of Maori Affairs, Maori unemployment more than halved, and he was very proud of that achievement."
Mr Horomia's friendly nature even extended to the media, says Mr Robertson.
"He had a pretty special relationship actually with [3 News political editor] Paddy Gower – they called each other chief, and he had that kind of relationship with a number of journalists," says Mr Robertson.
"He would always give us advice on how to deal with the media – I'm not sure we all took it and I'm not sure he took it himself, actually. But he had some wonderful phrases, and there were some great moments in Parliament that I'll remember. When Parekura got going, there was no one like him."
There will be a by-election for the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti seat within two months. Mr Horomia won it by a comfortable 6500 votes in 2011.