Labour MP Shane Jones' whanau is reeling after his 18-month-old niece drowned in a Far North creek.
Ebana Brough, who is also the great-granddaughter of former All Black Adrian Clarke, was found dead in a creek by her parents' property on Sunday morning.
Mr Jones last night made the long drive from Wellington, where he yesterday provisionally picked up three portfolios in the Labour reshuffle, to the family marae in Awanui, about 8km north of Kaitaia.
He said his whanau, who have gathered for the tangi at Maimaru Marae, were grief-stricken.
"It's an absolute tragedy, and as you might imagine the family is very upset. Any family that loses suddenly and tragically a toddler, especially to a drowning - people are grief stricken," he said.
Mr Jones was unable to get a flight so he had to drive north yesterday afternoon.
"I'm still making my way back to the tangi. I've obviously been caught up ... in the politics of the Labour Party's restructure," he said yesterday.
Ebana was the daughter of Mr Jones' brother's former partner Venus Cross and her partner Casey Brough, who is Clarke's grandson.
They live in a property by Waipapakauri Creek, which is close to the home of Mana Party leader Hone Harawira.
Speaking from Maimaru Marae last night, Mr Brough said his daughter had fallen into the creek and drowned.
He said Ebana was an "adventurous" little girl and the whanau was feeling lost after her death.
Mr Brough's grandfather was the previous owner of the nearby Waipapakauri Hotel.
Senior Sergeant Geoff Ryan of Kaitaia police said the toddler had wandered a short distance from her home and was found in the creek about 11.30am on Sunday.
Her death has been referred to the coroner.