The Prime Minister attended Parekura Horomia's tangi on Friday, saying he came to farewell a friend, a leader and a great New Zealander.
John Key flew to Tologa Bay by helicopter accompanied by about a dozen Cabinet ministers. They were welcomed on to Hauiti Marae where they stayed for about three hours.
Mr Key said he was genuinely sad when he heard the news that the 62-year-old Labour Party MP and former Maori Affairs Minister had died on Monday.
He said Mr Horomia was always a gentle giant and a big man in everything he did with a big smile, a big laugh and big ideas - which he couldn't always translate into words.
Mr Key delivered anecdotes about his experiences with the MP, which prompted much laughter. He said on the day a newspaper had described him as inventing words, he ran into Mr Horomia in the corridors of Parliament.
"Parekura came up to me and he looked at me and said, 'Ah, I see you're making up words'. And I said, 'Yeah, but I didn't know I was' and he went, 'Me neither!'"
Speaker of the House David Carter expressed his condolences on behalf of the many hundreds of people who work at Parliament.
Reflecting on Mr Horomia's answers as a minister during Question Time in the debating chamber, Mr Carter admitted they sometimes they were very hard to decipher.
Mr Carter also drew a big laugh when he said he was probably fortunate in not being Speaker at the time "having to determine whether the question had been addressed or answered."
John Key told those present that Parekura Horomia was a great man, because he believed passionately in his people and in why he was in Parliament.
Apirana Mahuika, chair of the Ngati Porou runanga, addressed the Prime Minister and told him it was a privilege to have him at the tangi.
"The honour is that your presence here is sharing the grief that is ours, sharing the grief that is the nation's on Parekura today."
Mr Mahuika said Parekura Horomia does not belong just to Ngati Porou, but to the nation and he is not only a taonga of Maoridom, but a treasure for all ethnicities.
Friday was the final day of the tangi and thousands of people have visited the marae to pay their respects over the past three days.
Mr Horomia's funeral was held on Saturday.