Former Far North mayor Miljenko ('Millie') Srhoj, who died on Sunday, has been praised for his ability to bridge racial divides.
Former Tai Tokerau MP Dover Samuels says Mr Srhoj was dedicated to the region.
The son of a Dalmatian gumdigger, Mr Srhoj began his career in local body politics with Mangonui County Council.
Mr Samuels served two terms as deputy to Mr Srhoj on its successor, the Far North District Council.
Mr Samuels told Waatea News he was an outstanding mayor and outstanding leader for the far north who transcended racial divides. He was also a very well-liked kaumatua.
His achievements included convincing Juken Nissho to buy a triboard mill in Kaitaia after the collapse of Northern Pulp in 1990, saving the jobs of the largely Maori workforce.
Mr Srhoj's funeral will be in Kaitaia on Wednesday.