Preparations for the tangi of a soldier who died in Afghanistan have begun at a remote Northland marae.
The body of Corporal Douglas Charles Hughes, 26, arrived at the Whenuapai airbase in Auckland on Saturday. His tangi will be held tomorrow at the Te Terai o Rahiri Marae in Pakotai, almost 50km northwest of Whangarei.
Burial will follow at the nearby Te Hepara Pai cemetery.
Up to 500 people are expected at the marae including a military contingent who will also operate a mobile kitchen.
Mr Hughes, known as Dougie, went to Tangowahine School, Dargaville High School and Northland College.
He joined the army in 2004 and was a rifleman from the 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment based at Linton Military Camp.
Mr Hughes had previously been deployed in the Solomon Islands and once before with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan.
He was deployed to Afghanistan for a second time last September and was due back in New Zealand this month after a six-month deployment.
A statement from the family said it had been a difficult time but they were encouraged by the support from Mr Hughes' friends and the wider community.
"We realise now how much of an impact Dougie had on those with whom he socialised with and worked with during his time in the NZ Army. He was a much-loved soldier, son, brother and friend to so many people.
"We are all extremely proud of what Dougie has achieved during his career in the NZ Army and our focus now is to make sure that he gets the farewell that he deserves.
"So many people held deep admiration for Dougie and we have been humbled by all the family who have chosen to travel from America, the UK, South Africa and Australia and support the whanau."
The cause of death is not being disclosed, but it was not the result of military action.