Lloyd Morrison wanted his funeral to be a happy occasion, and it was with his laughter that his funeral service started in Wellington's Town Hall today.

But the laughter left many in tears, coming as it did in a video of him and his daughter hamming it up to a Coldplay song.

It was a reminder that, despite all the MPs and businesspeople at the service, Mr Morrison was not just a successful businessman and philanthropist; he was a much-loved husband and father, son and brother, dead from cancer at 54.

Mr Morrison, a former merchant banker, founded infrastructure investment company Infratil in 1994. He was also part of a consortium which bought Wellington football club Phoenix last year.

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He never got to see them play, as, having been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in 2010, he was in Seattle in the United States being treated at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

It was there doctors this month told him his time was up.

Brother Rob Morrison told the service he and another brother saw him a few hours later.

"(He said) 'the doctors have been in to see me. They told me I'm toast', and he laughed at his own joke,'' Rob Morrison said.

A few hours later he died, his doctor telling Rob Morrison: "He took the news in a stoic way, he said goodbye to those he loved and he was gone by morning.''

Mr Morrison's children - Isabella, Madeleine, Ottilie, Vita and Elliott - went as one to the stage to pay tribute to a father Ottilie described as her best friend.

"I will never forget the kindness you showed us all. I love you.''

She told of a man who was the family breakfast chef, how each day the children would rise at 6.30am to a cooked breakfast. She started joining him a few years ago and when he was in the US he would text her at 6.45am each day asking: "What are you making for breakfast? It better be good.''

Wife Julie paid tribute before warning mourners her husband had a surprise for them, and to have their tissues handy.

"I know that I'm not meant to be here,'' a calm-looking Lloyd Morrison said from two huge screens.

He said he wanted the funeral to be happy "because I want you to now, crystal clear, that I'm happy''.

"I've got a life that I'm really proud of. I'm proud of myself for living a good life.''

His pride was not "a crowing pride''; rather, it was a deeply fulfilled happiness.

He was proud of his parents and siblings, of his "beautiful wife ... I've stuck with you and you've stuck with me'' and of his amazing, incredible children.

"I'm so proud of my family.''

Mr Morrison grew up as one of six children - five boys and a girl - and Rob Morrison recalled young sister Katie, hearing a glass breaking, asking their mother "what Lloydy done now?''

That was a question frequently asked as Mr Morrison grew up, his antics including such things as replacing the motor on a wee wooden boat, Puddleduck, with that of a much more powerful one and setting off across Lake Taupo with his siblings.

"All of a sudden, without warning, the entire back of the boat fell off, engine and all, and we sunk,'' Rob Morrison said.

"What Lloydy done now?''

Prime Minister John Key told mourners how he and Mr Morrison met when they were both merchant bankers in the mid 1980s.

"He had a presence about him, strong views and a willingness to share those views,'' Mr Key said.

In fact, the two had once nearly come to blows in a Wellington bar over economic policy.

"Lloyd fought for the things he believed in,'' Mr Key said.

That included a fierce pride in New Zealand and its future, and he designed an alternative flag - a silver fern on a black background.

That flag flew at half mast on the Wellington Town Hall today, along with the Tino Rangatiratanga and New Zealand flags, as about 1000 people gathered to farewell a man who, in his own words, "had a really good life''.

"So thank you.''