Whanau, friends, the Maori Land Court and the Waitangi Tribunal are in mourning for Judge David Ambler, who died in Whangarei surrounded by his family on Saturday night.

Held in high regard by Maori and pakeha, he was one of the first members of the Maori Land Court bar to be fluent in te reo and was known for his sharp legal mind coupled with a powerful sense of social justice.

A service will be held at Moko Marae, Te Puke, at 11am today followed by interment at Kenana Urupa. A memorial service will be held at 6pm on Friday at the Central Baptist Church on Bank St, Whangarei.

Judge Ambler was appointed to the Maori Land Court in 2006 and was also a presiding officer of the Waitangi Tribunal. He headed the Te Rohe Potae Inquiry which involved more than 270 Treaty claims in the King Country from Raglan to just north of Taumarunui, including Te Kuiti, Otorohanga and Waitomo.

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Chief Maori Land Court Judge Isaac Wilson, who is also chairman of the Waitangi Tribunal, said Judge Ambler was respected by everyone he worked with.

"Fluent in te reo Maori, Judge Ambler brought to his work his knowledge, commitment and passion for the law, tikanga Maori and iwi Maori. While we grieve for our brother judge, his death is an intensely personal loss for his whanau and close friends."

Maori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta said Judge Ambler was a softly spoken, intelligent man held in high regard by Maori and pakeha alike.

"Presiding over matters to do with Maori and their land is a very complex area. Judge Ambler rose to the challenge with dignity, clarity and respect," she said.

"Not only did he have a remarkable legal mind with a strong sense of social justice, he was simply a nice man. He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered."

Judge Ambler graduated from Auckland University in 1989 with a double degree in Maori studies and law, was appointed to the bar in 1990, then worked as a solicitor in Auckland before moving to Rotorua in 1992. As a lawyer he advised and advocated for a range of Maori trusts and incorporations, and represented Waitangi Tribunal claimants in Hauraki, Te Urewera, Wairarapa ki Tararua and the Central North Island.

Judge Ambler is survived by his wife Te Tai, children and mokopuna. He was aged 50.