Tauranga leaders have paid tribute to Te Awanuiarangi Black, describing the Maori iwi leader as an extraordinary man and a "rising star".
Ngati Pukenga brother Buddy Mikaere said Mr Black would be remembered for the tremendous energy he brought to the issues he was involved with.
"He was a very astute politician and thinker," he said.
Mr Black had a tremendous ability to connect with Maori elders because of his understanding of Te Reo.
"He would get information out of them others would struggle with."
Mr Black, 48, was not only heavily involved with his own iwi, but all iwi across Tauranga and represented Tauranga Moana with dignity and spirit, he said.
Mr Black was largely responsible for co-ordinating nearly 1000 people to perform the kapa haka for the Battle of Gate Pa 2014 commemorations.
Friend, colleague and ally Te Ururoa Flavell said he was shattered at the premature passing of the iwi leader and tribal ambassador.
"Te Awanuiarangi was driven by an internal fire, burning within, which compelled him to make a difference in every sphere of his life," said the Maori Party co-leader.
"I loved him dearly, and I cannot believe he is no longer with us."
As a son of Ngati Pukenga, Ngai Te Rangi, Waitaha, Ngati Ranginui and Ngati Raukawa ki Otaki, he was a highly respected leader and a dedicated champion for his people, Mr Flavell said.
Mr Black had the courage and the commitment to stand and represent his people wherever he heard the call, he said.
Mr Flavell said his dear friend was a champion of so many things for Maori people and he could never comprehend how he managed to be in so many places at the same time.
"But as diverse and comprehensive as the scope of his work was, today we feel particularly for all those who loved him as a papa, a partner, a brother, a son."
Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller said he had been shocked by the news and felt for his whanau and wider Tauranga community.
"He was a remarkable leader who had the ability to walk between two worlds. He was deep in tikanga [Maori protocol] and was selected early on as somebody elders would impart their knowledge on to.
"He had huge vision for Maori potential in the Bay of Plenty region and was a living example of it. He was a man of integrity and respect.
"He was a younger leader who had leadership bestowed on him by the kaumatua. He had an extraordinary personality."
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said Mr Black was a very strong Maori leader both within iwi and politics.
"This will be something his whanau and the Maori community will be reeling from for a long time. Others now will have step up and fill the gap he has left in the community.
"He was a rising star."