Latest updates: Sir Howard Morrison's funeral

Sir Howard Morrison's funeral is being held in Rotorua today after the entertainer died last week. will carry live updates throughout the day.

15:16 - Sir Howard Morrison's burial at Ngongataha cemetery has all but finished and mourners have headed back to Ohinemtu for food and drinks.

14:08 - At least a thousand mourners and members of the Morrison whanau have gathered at Ngongataha cemetery for Sir Howard's burial.

Sir Howard's casket has been taken from the hearse and is being carried to the graveside along a 50 metre route lined with mourners, standing two or three deep.

Pallbearers are being led by a young warrior carrying a taiaha and called by a kuia with a karanga.

Members of Sir Howard's whanau are following, carrying bouquets sent from around the country over the last few days while his body lay in state at Tamatekapua.

Mourners are standing up to 10 deep around the graveside.

13:52 - The hearse carrying Sir Howard Morrison's body has just arrived at the grave site where he will be buried.

Family members followed the hearse to the cemetery at Mt Ngongataha.

13:38 - Clusters of mourners are dotted along the route of Sir Howard Morrison's casket from Te Papaiouru to the cemetery at Mt Ngongataha.

Some of those lining the streets are on horseback.

Hundreds of mourners have made their way to Sir Howard's grave, where a marquee has been set up on the lower slopes of Mt Ngongataha, the traditional burial ground of Te Arawa.

The cemetery is on Ngati Whakaue land, the sub-tribe to which Sir Howard belongs.

13:24 - Led by police, a long of procession of cars has accompanied the casket of Sir Howard Morrison through the streets of Rotorua.

Members of the Morrison family waved to mourners who had lined Lake Road to see Sir Howard's casket drive past, thanking them for their attendance.

Sir Howard's casket is now on its way to Mount Ngongataha, where he will be buried this afternoon.

13:04 - Rotorua's Labour MP Steve Chadwick said the ceremony was incredibly memorable, it had dignity and humour.

She praised Sir Howard's daughter Donna Mariana Grant.

"I admired Donna, who laid down the taki [challenge] about the health of the tribe and we all heard that."

Ms Chadwick said that was the most important need for Maori now that they had economic independence.

Ms Chadwick – who was accompanied by her grandchildren of Tuwharetoa descent – said it was important for them to learn from the ceremony.

"Everybody is here, that's what he would love. The family have shared so generously."

Streets lined with people waiting for Sir Howard's hearse.

12:57 - Mourners have lined Lake Road at the entrance of Ohinemtu, the home township of Sir Howard Morrison.

They include children from a school holiday program who are holding a hand painted banner which reads 'goodbye Sir Howard Morrison'.

Mourners are waiting for the hearse carrying Sir Howard's casket to drive past on his way to Mt Ngongataha where the great New Zealand entertainer will be buried.

12:42 - Sir Howard's casket is being placed in the hearse at Ohinemutu.

Members of the wide Morrison whanau are accompanying the casket, which will shortly be driven through the streets of Rotorua.

Former Minister of Maori Affairs and Labour MP Parekura Horomia said he had been to a lot of ceremonies and this one "is right up there."

"Certainly it's in recognition of a great New Zealander, someone who crossed the boundaries of both races," Mr Horomia said.

He said Sir Howard helped the nation get on with "our bright future."

Mr Horomia said Sir Howard was an articulate performer and did a lot for young Maori.

Four saxophone players are accompanying the casket - a tradition of Te Arawa that goes back 30 years - with a rendition of How Great Thou Art, a song associated with Sir Howard.

12:26 - Anaru Grant spoke warmly of his father-in-law, despite Sir Howard being wary of him early on in his courtship of Sir Howard's daughter Donna Mariana.

Mr Grant told the congregation that as Sir Howard accompanied his bride up the aisle at Mr Grant's wedding, he whispered "it's not too late".

Mr Grant said it was a privilege to be part of the Morrison whanau.

"The greatest legacy he leaves behind is his family."

Mr Grant said the family was lucky enough to spend 10 days in Rarotonga shortly before Sir Howard's death.

"I say it to the people out there who have mums and dads, don't leave it until tomorrow to say you love them because tomorrow may be too late."

Acting Prime Minister Bill English said Sir Howard was "a great New Zealander, a unique New Zealander."

"I speak on behalf of all those people who know him by his songs, his graciousness and his happiness."

Mr English said Sir Howard brought Maori and Pakeha together and could "reach through the TV screen to touch the hearts of thousands".

Mr English said Sir Howard lobbied hard on behalf of young Maori.

"He never made appointments and got to the point he said: 'If you do what I want I will support you'. I think he said that to every party."

The Morrison whanau sang a waiata before Sir Howard's nephews – including Temuera Morrison – performed a series of emotional haka.

Sir Howard's casket has now been taken to a nearby church before a series of private prayers. His casket will then be taken in a procession through Rotorua before being buried at Mt Ngongataha.

11:42 - The iconic Sir Howard Morrison hymn Whakaaria Mai was sung with great fervour as the whanau of Sir Howard looked on from the front of the marae.

A sermon by Tom Poata described Sir Howard as a hero in show business.

"He struck down the boundaries between Maori party singers and professional entertainers.

"He showed Maori were capable of singing any style of music we choose."

He said the love that had been shown for Sir Howard and his family should be carried on "Sir Howard your life is done, thank you for sharing the stage with us."

There was then a haka performed by the Morrison whanau before Sir Howard's daughter Donna Mariana Grant gave the eulogy "what a proud moment to say 'my Dad'."

She went on to say: "We as a family have been basking in your warmth of generosity." She said a lot of people shared her father's life because that was the way he wanted it.

"He would want today to be televised to Aotearoa because the nation and loves him – and we love you for loving him."

She described her father as challenging and charismatic.

11:02 - The bell at Ohinemutu has been struck for the last time for Sir Howard Morrison.

Te Arawa kaumatua Pihopa Kingi addressed mourners and said Sir Howard's life has been celebrated and his story has been told over and over again over the last four days.

"Te Arawa has never seen a gathering like this before and been host to so many distinguished people, and you here today will showing by your very presence, your condolences and your sympathy for Lady Kuia and family," he said.

Mr Kingi asked mourners to sing the Maori and - iconic Sir Howard - hymn Whakaaria Mai (How Great Thou Art) for Sir Howard.

Bishop Ngarahu Katene has begun addressing mourners.

10:46 -Haka and waiata by members of Sir Howard Morrison's tribe Te Arawa have been performed as mourners take their seats in front of Tamatekapua meeting house.

The service for Sir Howard is due to begin at 11am before a procession through the streets of Rotorua and his burial at Mount Ngongataha.

Dignitaries include kaumatua from tribes throughout the country and musicians Dame Malvina Major and John Rowles, as well as politicians.

There is standing room only as hundreds pour into the tiny settlement of Ohinemutu.

Mourners have just witnessed a moving rendition of Pokarekare Ana performed Timua Brennan and Sir Howard's sisters are now singing.

They are turning and singing towards Sir Howard's coffin which is surrounded by close members of his whanau.

A row of bouquets from around the country line the front of the marae.

09:38 - The lid on Sir Howard's coffin has been closed and the last group of dignitaries have been called on to the marae.

The casket will then be brought on to the mahau of the Tamatekapua
meeting house at the small settlement of Ohinemutu.

A thick mist is hanging over Lake Rotorua, obscuring Mokoia Island.

Mourners have gathered at the marae for this morning's service that
includes Sir Howard's iconic hymn of Whakaaria Mai and readings from
Morrison whanau.

09:07 - The last group are about to be called on to the Tamatekapua meeting house, including opposition leader Phil Goff, local MP Steve Chadwick and MP Parekura Horomia.

Phil Goff said Sir Howard was an iconic entertainer, "right up there
with Billy T James".

"He was able to laugh at himself and brought Maori and Pakeha
together. They were high acheivers and admired right across New
Zealand society," Mr Goff said.

Mr Goff said he was three years old when the Sir Howard Morrison
Quartet was formed and ten when it was disbanded but still remembers
the music.

"It shows what a huge impact he had," Mr Goff said.

He said Sir Howard worked hard for the Te Arawa people and the causes
he believed in.

09:03 - Sir Howard's daughter Donna Grant thanked the thousands of people who had come to Te Papaiouru marae in Rotorua since last Friday to share the entertainer's life.

She said her father was a challenging but charitable man with an inimitable style and broad appeal.

"You had Tame Iti sitting next to the police and people who haven't known dad at all but were compelled to drive here and enter into one of our sacred protocols on the marae, the tangihanga, and be comfortable to be enveloped by our kindness and our warmth," said Mrs Grant.

"He was a bicultural example of what NZ and what nationhood was all about."

After this morning's service, Sir Howard's funeral procession will complete a short route of his old haunts in Rotorua before his body is taken to Kauae cemetery near Ngongotaha.

"He will be buried so he can be with my mum when she passes," she said.
"As inimitable as he is he will be by himself so he can set the tone for how things go in the future."

08:52 - Morrison whanau member Buffy Anaru says mourners have come from the bottom of the South Island to the top of the North Island.

She said many pakeha have turned up to pay their last respects to Sir Howard.

"There was a couple from Tauranga. They couldn't bear not to come
over. They felt they didn't know whether it was right, the protocol,
to know that they could," Mrs Anaru said.

She said the couple were taken into the meeting house Tamatekapua,
where Sir Howard is lying in state, by family members to say good bye.

"It made their day," Mrs Anaru said.

She said many said that it was a beautiful experience.

"Just to see him one more time, that's what she said," Mrs Anaru said.

She said the tangi has brought both cultures together and for some
pakeha it has been their first time on a marae.

"Look at all his concerts, the majority were pakeha, elderly. They had
a lot of respect for him," Mrs Anaru said.

"He was such a humble person who touched a lot of people's hearts," she said.

- NZ Herald

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