The body of artist Ralph Hotere arrived to emotional scenes at Mitimiti in Northland this afternoon.

Just before 2pm, the airforce NZ90 helicopter he was on circled around the tiny beachside settlement and disappeared for a second behind the mountain Tarakeha.

It circled back and hovered for a couple of minutes above a paddock, drowning out the noise of the Tasman Sea.

Family including his wife Mary McFarlane, daughter Andrea Hotere and two mokopuna and one sister, Maraea Chung, were greeted with hugs by waiting whanau.

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Hotere's body was transferred to a waiting Hummer to travel the last 100 or so metres of his long journey from his Dunedin home.

School children and local police performed the haka-powhiri as he was carried on to the marae and into Tumoana, the house where he will lie until he is buried.

Dignitaries including MP Shane Jones, Haami Piripi and master waka builder Hec Busby followed the body on.

One of Hotere's brothers, Winitana, said all were welcome to come and pay their respects.

"We are hoping all of his friends turn up. We know a lot of them would have gone to the service in Dunedin but we would love anyone here."