Napier businessman Nic Magdalinos was traditionally welcomed on to Waiohiki Marae yesterday, surrounded by family and friends, after unexpectedly passing away last week.

About 270 people gathered under the Hawke's Bay sun to celebrate the successful businessman's life with some song, dance and good kai.

The afternoon was a chance for organisational representatives, friends and family to express their condolences. After a short service the floor was opened for people to share any memories or experiences they had with Nic.

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Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana said it was a huge honour to have Nic laying to rest on their marae.

"He meant so much to the community of Waiohiki that he got under their skin and he became one of them . . . It is the greatest honour to have him lie here on this dirt he helped create with his own hands.

"Nic, his dad the late Paris, his wife and family are with us forever and they are a part of the fabric of this tribe."

The managing director of Paris Magdalinos Architects had a close connection with the families in the Waiohiki area and friend Denis O'Reilly said one of Mr Magdalinos' legacies would be the new Waiohiki whare.

"Nic carried on his father's commitment to building an inclusive society where Maori and Pakeha collaborated and enjoyed each other's company. He became a key figure in the redevelopment of the Waiohiki Marae and, in that, the building of the new wharenui."

The late Paris Magdalinos, Nic's father, started the Ngati Paarau vision of creating an inclusive 21st century community at Waiohiki, and Nic bought into that.

The vision was founded on Maori values, but welcomed the participation of any New Zealander who wanted to contribute.

"Our tipuna may well have envisaged those such as members of the Magdalinos whanau who have been true friends and generous partners to Ngati Paarau."

Mr O'Reilly said Nic and his colleagues had been generous with their time and architectural expertise and creativity.

"Sometimes they have had to be patient with us. We want to demonstrate in a practical way that this has been appreciated."

The funeral is being held today at 1pm at Waiapu Cathedral of St John the Evangelist in Napier.