A Maori academic who died suddenly during a celebratory occasion at the University of Waikato is being remembered as a passionate advocate and educator.

Law lecturer Matiu Dickson died suddenly on Thursday morning at a ceremony marking the opening of its new law and management building.

Colleagues and politicians have expressed their grief at the loss of the admired academic who has left behind his wife, six children and four grandchildren.

The Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell was saddened to hear of the death of someone he saw as a close friend.

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"Matiu Dickson and I flatted together when I first left school and we both attended university together.

"I will never forget him and will cherish the wonderful memories I have of an articulate and intelligent man."

Mr Flavell said his friend had inspired people to think creatively and had a special interest in legal education, advocacy for the younger generation and on Maori legal issues.

He added Mr Dickson would be remembered for his work as a tribal leader, who chaired Te Runanga o Kirikiriroa, and was also a treaty negotiator for the Ngai Te Rangi Treaty Settlement Claim.

Co-leader Marama Fox also paid homage to his skill as an expert in kapa haka and tikanga Maori.

"He will be sorely missed by many facets of Te Ao Maori as a well-educated man, who was always willing to share his knowledge."

Labour's Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta also acknowledged the academic's passing.

"Matiu will be sorely missed. He had a level of optimism and foresight that made people feel secure when seeking his advice. He was a reflective thinker and gave considered opinions on a range of issues.

He shared the party's condolences to Mr Dickson's family.

Mr Dickson was chairman of the Maori urban authority Te Rununga o Kirikiriroa, and a lecturer in the University of Waikato's Te Piringa Faculty of Law.

He was also a member of Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi's council.

Prior to moving to Hamilton in the 1990s , Mr Dickson served for three terms on the Mount Maunganui Borough Council, and one term on Tauranga City Council.

He chaired the planning committee in Tauranga at the time of the introduction of the Resource Management Act.

Mr Dickson was a Matawaka person from the East Coast but raised on Matakana Island.

He was also a member of Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi's council.

He is survived by his wife Helen, their six children and four mokopuna.

His body lying at Hungahungatoroa Marae in Matapihi where the funeral is expected to be held.

Mr Dickson's funeral is expected to take place at Hungahungatoroa Marae in Matapihi, Tauranga.