A Northland man was stabbed to death by his older brother during an alcohol-fuelled argument two days before he planned to marry his partner.

Corey Heihei's death forced his partner and their two children to live in temporary accommodation as they struggled to pay their bills without an income.

Older brother Jason Heihei, 31, last month tearfully pleaded guilty in the High Court in Whangarei to murdering him and was yesterday sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years.

The brothers' argument started after Jason Heihei began berating his mother that Corey Heihei was her favourite son before confronting him.

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Justice Graham Lang said Jason Heihei plunged a kitchen knife with an 18cm blade into his brother's back six times with such force that Corey Heihei fell to the ground and began choking on his blood.

The tragedy happened at their mother's house on Pukepoto Rd in Kaitaia about 2.20am on July 23, last year. The knife entered his lungs and cut the main artery as well as pierced his liver. He rapidly became unconscious and unresponsive and, despite being attended to by St John paramedics, died at the scene.

Corey Heihei's partner said in her victim impact statement that she and her two children aged 1 and 3 have gone from living a happy life to struggling financially with nowhere to live because of Jason's Heihei's actions.

"We had our ups and downs but we loved each other dearly. We were planning to get married in a private ceremony on July 25 and give our families a surprise. I held him in my arms while he was dying. I just want to see justice for Corey ... one of the best people this world has known," she said.

The brothers' father, Jack Heihei, said his whanau was not going to lose another son which was why they continued to support Jason. The tragic death has taken a huge toll on the whanau.

At the start of the sentencing, Justice Lang said nothing the court would do could bring back Corey Heihei but yesterday' court process would bring some form of closure to the grieving families.

"This was a spontaneous situation where you grabbed a kitchen knife in the heat of the moment and the result of your action was devastating for all members of your family."