The people of Te Arawa and the community of Rotorua are mourning the death of the respected orator Mauriora Kingi.
He died at his home this morning after being ill for some time and days after his 53rd birthday.
Mr Kingi, of Te Arawa and Tainui descent, was the kaupapa Māori director for the Rotorua Lakes Council.
Just a few days ago he was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday honours for his services to Māori.
Mauriora Kingi was an advocate for Te Reo Māori and worked to create more understanding between Pākehā and tāngata whenua and their cultures.
Mr Kingi was also an influential figure in advising local and central government on Māori tikanga, or customs.
A close colleague who worked with him at the Rotorua District Council, Trevor Maxwell, said Mr Kingi was a selfless person who was always generous with his time and knowledge.
"He's just so well respected by both Māori and Pākehā, he was always available," Mr Maxwell said.
"He (Mr Kingi) was rightfully honoured in the Queen's Birthday honours. He's welcomed prime ministers and presidents and people from all over the world, but he always retained a lovely sense of humour with it."
Rotorua mayor, Steve Chadwick, is also shattered by Mr Kingi's death and said he would be a huge loss, not only for Rotorua, but for New Zealand.
"We are obviously devastated by this news," she said.
"Mau was our taonga and he made a huge and very important contribution. We are trying to deal with this heart-breaking loss as best we can and our thoughts go out to his whānau and to Mau's council whānau.
"He was the glue between council and iwi and beyond that, between iwi and iwi - his vast knowledge and his sage advice were invaluable to me as mayor and to everyone in this organisation.
"Just a few days ago we were celebrating news of his Queen's Birthday Honour - a very well deserved accolade which he received in his usual humble way by acknowledging his elders, but of which I'm sure he was also very proud," Mayor Chadwick said.
"Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to celebrate as an organisation. Mauriora was on leave this week so we're very sad we didn't get to show him how proud we were. He will leave a huge void."
Mr Kingi joined the council in 1997, starting as iwi communications assistant in Environmental Services and then moving to the Community Services department where he assumed the role of cultural advisor. He later became iwi communications manager and in 2001 Kaupapa Maori director.
Of Te Arawa and Tainui descent, his recent Queen's Birthday Honour was testament to his wide and varied contribution to the Rotorua community and beyond.
Mr Kingi spoke with Te Manu Korihi on Tuesday about receiving the New Zealand Order of Merit and said while it was an honour to be recognised, it was important for him to acknowledge the kaumatua who passed on their wisdom and taught him all he knows.
"I want to acknowledge those old people who nurtured me and supported me in my learning.
"I would like to dedicate this award to those people who are no longer here, but they trusted their knowledge and their tuition to me," he said.
"I'd like to pass it down to younger people, that's what we're meant to be doing: holding the knowledge and then passing it down to younger generations."
Mr Kingi said it was important Māori and Pākehā had an understanding of each other's cultures, and part of his work had been to try and remove the barriers between them.
"I enjoy it because I get to work with our people and support their aspirations," he said.
Having been heavily involved with Rotorua Lakes Council's former Te Arawa Standing Committee, he had been looking forward to contributing to the implementation of the new partnership model between the council and Te Arawa, aimed at forging a stronger, enduring relationship with local iwi.
The Māori Party Co-leader and Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell said the party was shocked and saddened by his unexpected death.
"The eight beating hearts of Te Arawa are broken today with the loss of one of our favourite sons. Mauriora Kingi epitomised the proverb 'Te Arawa Māngai Nui' and today his unforgettable voice is silenced.
"Mauriora's passing leaves a deep hole in our hearts and he will be hugely missed by many people, Māori and Pākehā, but especially his people of Tuhourangi and Ngāti Wahiao."
Mr Flavell said that Mauriora Kingi was one of the chosen few that was raised by kaumātua and versed in te reo Māori, history and tikanga Māori from an early age.
- Senior spokesperson for Te Pakira Marae, Whakarewarewa and recognised spokesperson for Te Arawa
- Held cultural support, advisory and interpreter roles with a range of Parliamentary and Ministerial services, serving Governors-General, Prime Ministers and various Ministers
- Current member of Te Puia/NZ Maori Arts and Crafts Institute Advisory Board
- Member of Advisory Board for Intellectual Property Rights NZ
- Member of Nga Kaituhono Advisory Board (NZQA)
- Former chair National Standing Body and Whakaruruhau for Te Reo, Tikanga and Performing Arts
- Involved in Maori performing arts and speech competitions as a tutor and judge of kapa haka since 1980s at - local, regional and national levels
- Longest serving judge for Te Matatini national kapa haka competition
- Has been involved in various private training establishments including He Kainga mo te Reo (founding member), and has been a volunteer for Arahia Academy and the Masters and Diploma degrees in Social Work at Waiariki Institute of Technology, under the auspices of Victoria University
- Past advisory member for the Forest Research Institute (now Scion)
- Past member of Ture Whenua Act review panel for Te Puni Kokiri.
Trevor Maxwell said Mauriora Kingi's body will be lying at Wahiao Marae in Whakarewarewa until his burial on Tuesday.