Key Points:

Hone Tuwhare, New Zealand's most distinguished Maori writer, has died aged 86.

Tuwhare has affliations with the Nga Puhi iwi.

He is believed to have died today in Dunedin.

Born in Kaikohe, he moved to Auckland when his mother died.

He spoke Maori until he was nine years old and was always an accomplished orator.

He met another of New Zealand's top poets, RAK Mason, while working as an apprentice at the Otahuhu Railway Workshop and the pair shared in interest in literature and trades union organisation.

Until the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary in 1956 he was a member of the Communist party.

In 1964, his first published collection, No Ordinary Sun, received acclaim and was reprinted 10 times in 30 years.

Granted the Burns Fellowship in 1969, he moved to Dunedin where he often worked with the painter, Ralph Hotere.

Tuwhare has won two Montana NZ Book Awards, has been Te Mata Poet Laureate, and holds two honorary doctorates in literature.

His tangi will be in his birthplace of Kaikohe.