Respected Te Arawa kaumatua Wahiao Raymond James (Jim) Gray has died.

Mr Gray, 84, was taken off life support on Sunday afternoon and died surrounded by family in Rotorua Hospital at 9.30pm.

His granddaughter Te Kiri Tu Marshall said he was the person they always went to if they had a problem.

"Whenever there was a problem and you didn't know what to do, he was the one you went to," she said.

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"He usually had all the answers, and if he didn't he would make a call to figure it out.

"In the last few weeks he had talked about making arrangements, to make sure he knew where we were going and that we would be taken care of."

Mr Gray grew up in small-town New Zealand halfway between Whakatane and Taneatua on his parents' sheep station.

As a high school student in Whakatane, Mr Gray was one of only two Maori boys to pass School Certificate.

"He had so much knowledge," Miss Marshall said.

"He was so determined, if he didn't know something he'd be sure to learn it."

Told by his father that he couldn't bludge off him any more Mr Gray then considered the army but didn't like the idea of "all that walking", and he got seasick so knew he couldn't join the navy.

It was then that he joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).

During his 26-year service in the RNZAF Mr Gray spent two tours in Singapore and Malaysia.

Miss Marshall said he didn't really talk about that time, because he didn't really like to brag about his achievements very much.

"He's never bragged about all the things he's done or the places he's been," she said.

In 1991 he began his work in governance "trouble-shooting" for the Maori Land Court.
He had since been appointed a professional trustee on close to 40 Maori authorities, and had become recognised as one of the foremost authorities on the workings of Maori trusts.

Mr Gray was known for his passionate beliefs and his family said that meant he sometimes clashed with others.

"When he believed in something he really pushed and invested everything, all his time and love into it," Miss Marshall said.

She said he was truly smitten with his grandson Kaeden.

"He looked after all of us, but he was the apple of his eye," she said.

"He'd sit with him for hours and just talk about the stars or anything Kaeden wanted," she said.

John Treanor met Mr Gray nine years ago through his work in Maori Land trusts and will be leading the service and Returned Services Association tribute.

"To be honest, he's not everybody's cup of tea," he said.

"While we might have butted heads at times, we respected each other.

"We didn't disagree about what should be done, but just how we should do it."

Mr Treanor said that Mr Gray often held his own council and so he made you feel like a silent partner.

Ngati Whakaue kaumatua Monty Morrison said it was not just a great loss for Ngati Whakaue but for all of Te Arawa.

"There will be many tributes for sure," he said.

"The contribution he has made was not only for his own people, but for the wider community."

Tuhourangi kaumatua and longtime friend Anaru Rangiheuea said if there was a hope anyone would just carry on living then he was the one who deserved it.

Mr Rangiheuea said Mr Gray was a "great, clear and precise" negotiator.

"The best thing about him is that he stuck to his guns," he said.

"He would speak up and expect to be heard."

Mr Gray developed and published Introduction to Governance of Maori Authorities in 1996, the only NZQA approved book on the subject, and at the time of his death was a trustee for the NZTA Charitable Trust, the overseeing body for the Trustees Association.

He was the recipient of the Trustee of the Year Award in 1996 and the Trust of the Year Award in 1996 and 1997.

Councillor and chairman of the New Zealand Community Trust Trevor Maxwell said it was in the world of business that people really knew Mr Gray.

"It is sad for Rotorua to lose someone with his skills. He was tremendous," he said.

"He really worked hard, to always do what was right."

Mr Maxwell said he felt for Mr Gray's family and his hapu.

Mr Gray is survived by his wife Kathleen Gray, his two sons Jimmy and Stuart, his granddaughter Te Kiri Tu and his grandson Kaeden Marshall.

He is lying at White Haven Funeral Home until his tangihanga which is taking place at 11am tomorrow.