Kelly Makiha is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Funds flood in for Wiremu's final journey home

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LEADER: Wiremu Keepa Jnr had already achieved more in his short life than many older adults. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
LEADER: Wiremu Keepa Jnr had already achieved more in his short life than many older adults. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

An online fundraising page that will help bring home Wiremu Keepa Jnr's body has raised nearly $7000 in fewer than 24 hours.

Mr Keepa, a former Western Heights High School head boy, was only 23 when he collapsed and died on Monday morning at his Perth home.

He moved to Australia from Rotorua about three years ago and was touted as a future leader of Ngati Whakaue. His shock death has devastated friends and family.

A Givealittle page has been set up with permission from Mr Keepa's immediate family by his cousin, Tia Smith, formerly from Rotorua and now living in Brisbane.

More than 150 people have donated to the page.

Miss Smith told the Rotorua Daily Post the fact it had raised so much already was testament not only to the amazing person Mr Keepa was, but also to his parents, Claudia Kingi and Bryan Keepa.

Miss Smith said she was close to her cousin and couldn't believe what she was hearing when she got the call on Monday.

"You expect those calls to be about older members of your family, your aunties and uncles, but he's only 23. It was quite surreal really."

Miss Smith said Mr Keepa never seemed like he was 23 and was wise and mature well beyond his years. She said a video of him singing the classic hit song It's Now Or Never that is posted with the Givealittle page showed his voice matched his maturity.

Miss Smith said she set up the page because she felt helpless in Brisbane. She said many family members offered to help but didn't know what to do.

The page says "Wiremu Keepa Jnr made such a positive difference to all during his short time here with us. He was always the first person to put his hand up to help others - not only whanau and friends but also strangers."

She said he would say "strangers are friends we have not yet met".

"His beautiful soul and ahua [appearance] was always enjoyed by those in his company."

She said funds from the page would help bring back his body to Rotorua where "we can sing one last tune with him and to give him the send-off he deserves".

Mr Keepa's uncle in Rotorua, also named Wiremu Keepa, said it could be the end of next week before his nephew's body is brought home.

He said about 10 members of the family, including his nephew's mother, cousins and aunts and uncles living in Perth, were to bring the body home.

Family in Rotorua were planning the convoy from Auckland Airport to Tunohopu Marae at Ohinemutu, where his tangi would be held, Mr Keepa said.

Messages of support and photographs posted on Facebook of Mr Keepa were helping the family at this tough time, he said.

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