An 81-year-old man found dead after a fishing boat tragedy in Fiordland yesterday was a cousin of slain stop-go worker George Taiaroa.

The bodies of fishermen Matenga "Marty" Taiaroa and Jim Hanson, believed to be in his 60s, were found near Breaksea Sound yesterday.

Mr Taiaroa's death is a double tragedy for his whanau, after his cousin George was shot dead almost three years ago while working with a roading crew north of Taupo.

Police are yet to provide much detail about the fishing deaths. One body was found with the wreckage of the boat, and the second was found "some time later", a statement said.

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The men -- both highly experienced seafarers -- were returning to Dunedin from the West Coast.

From his hometown of Otakou in Dunedin, Mr Taiaroa's 52-year-old son Teone, also a fisherman, said he knew little more than that.

"He'd left here to go catch tuna for Talley's down at Westport, but the boat had mechanical problems on the way," Teone said.

"The gearbox blew up and they got to Westport too late, so they headed home down the West Coast, past Breaksea Island and didn't get any further."

Matenga
Matenga "Marty" Taiaroa with his son Teone. Photo / Supplied

Teone was unsure what had happened after that - except that crayfishers found the boat's wreckage washed up on the island, and spent hours searching for the two men's bodies.

Teone said it was a miracle they were found, and he was grateful to the men for enabling his father's body to get home to be farewelled by whanau and friends.

He guessed the accident was weather related, but he was waiting to hear from the coroner.

He said his father's boat was quite seaworthy. Old -- almost Matenga Taiaroa's age -- but in good order.

Mr Hanson was an ex-helmsman for the navy, and a merchant seaman. He was a very experienced navigator who had been all round the world, Teone said.

Matenga Taiaroa was well respected in his community and among his hapu Te Runanga o Otakou.

"They don't have chiefs anymore -- but if they did he would have been one."

He was a direct descendant of the great war chief Te Matenga Taiaroa and former MP Hori Taiaroa.

Teone Taiaroa said his father's body had been returned to Dunedin, where a tangi would be held in the next few days.

One body was found with the wreckage of the boat, and the second was found
One body was found with the wreckage of the boat, and the second was found "some time later". Photo / Supplied

In attendance would be those his father left behind including his wife, Teone and his sister Michelle, his six grandkids and his four great-grandkids.

"The family is cut up, but we'll have to be staunch," Teone said.

Matenga Taiaroa loved being at sea, like many of his ancestors before him. He also helped manage trusts, organised a fisherman's golf tournament, loved bowls and playing the guitar.

"In his early days he was a shearer, running his own gang in Central Otago, and then with his father and his uncles he went fishing," Teone said.

"He was a hard man and all his mates were hard men, but he was a good man."

He was closely involved in Maori fishing quota negotiations, and on behalf of his ancestor he signed the Treaty of Waitangi in a re-enactment at Ruapuke Island.

Teone has followed his father's footsteps and is a fisherman, as are his two sons. Three generations were at sea when yesterday's tragedy occurred.

"You could say that he did die doing the thing he loved, but we'd all have preferred it if he made it home."

George Taiaroa's death on March 19, 2013 remained a mystery for two years until police made an arrest last November. A 45-year-old man charged with his murder is before the courts.

Poem written by David Hawea Taiaroa, grandson of Te Matenga "Marty" Taiaroa:
As his bowline lays loose, we're left here confused,
Wondering what went wrong, but we have to stay strong.
As the sea sees no wrong, he was at home - his home was the sea.

Eighty-two years and still had no fears
We're left here holding back tears.

Three generations at sea when we heard the news - there are very few crews who can say
So as I tip my hat, I'm proud I can say that.

But two generations are left to ride
Every crest and see the tide ebb and flow,
So on every high tide I want you to know

You're one of a kind, never far from my mind
I love you to bits, still recall our first trip
So as I come to grips, as your bow line lays loose
I love you bits
Stay safe on God's ships.