Labour Party MP Shane Jones says colleague and friend Parekura Horomia was a legend amongst iwi on the North Island's East Coast and across Maoridom in general.
Mr Horomia died on Monday afternoon surrounded by his whanau at his home at Mangatuna near Tolaga Bay. He was 62.
The MP held the seat of Ikaroa-Rawhiti for Labour from 1999 and was Minister of Maori Affairs for eight years from 2000.
Shane Jones said he last saw his friend on Sunday afternoon and described him as having an infectious sense of humour and with a gift for bringing people together.
Mr Jones said he was very encouraging of the next generation, loved his farm and worked hard to help revive the Maori Wardens movement.
He said Mr Horomia put a great deal of effort into ensuring that the legacy of the Maori Battalion would live on and was also involved in a number of initiatives that benefited Maori, including the establishment of Maori Television.
Parekura Horomia's family say the body will be taken to Hauiti Marae in Tolaga Bay and arrive there late on Tuesday afternoon.