Ngāpuhi rangatira Kingi Taurua has been laid to rest at his Ngāti Rehia marae at Te Tii, near Kerikeri.

Taurua, 80, died on Thursday from cancer. He was surrounded by his loved ones in Auckland.

In the handsome carved, coastal wharenui called Te Ranga Tira Tanga at Whitiora Marae, his funeral service was a solemn, sometimes laugh-out-loud occasion — and full of warmth despite it being Northland's coldest May day in 42 years.

The service was officiated by senior figures from the Ratana Church, led by Minister Joe Everett.

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Hundreds were at the tangi for the man who was one of the annual Waitangi Treaty celebrations' most recognisable faces.

Speakers told stories of the many hats Taurua wore - first as Ngāpuhi, then as a New Zealander.

Taurua was spoken of as a family man, soldier, Māori adviser to government ministers, award-winning broadcaster and fierce defender of te reo and protocol.

He was also a mischief maker, and humble man, the mourners heard.

Most of his 10 children and many grand and great-grandchildren were there, including daughter Noeline Kingi, former Silver Fern and national netball coach.

Among at least four current and former members of Parliament at the tangi, Hone Harawira said Taurua was a leading figure in many ways.

''He was one of the first Maori men of note, of celebrity, to take the full-face moko in modern times.''

Other politicians were Labour MPs Kelvin Davis and Willow-Jean Prime, and former Labour Maori MP Dover Samuels.

Samuels, a whanaunga (relative) as well as close friend, said one of Taurua's visitors in the days before he died was another well-known Waitangi activist, Titewhai Harawira.

There were times Taurua and Harawira had fiery - and public - exchanges over their differing ideas regarding pre-Waitangi Day protocol at Te Tii marae, sometimes called the lower marae.

Several men were also present who were in the New Zealand Army with ''Albie'' Taurua, as he was known at that time. A few had shared a tour of duty in Vietnam with him, in the first New Zealand Army contingent to be mobilised to that war.

Taurua was a gunner and a ''foo'', or forward observation officer, who served with distinction.

His army service included being the first Māori guard at Buckingham Palace in London, as part of a defence service exchange posting.

The irony of a distinguished soldier who guarded the Queen, became an adviser on Māori matters to the New Zealand Government, but went on to be one of this country's best known advocates for Māori sovereignty was not lost on anyone, least of all the man himself.

''He believed in his whakapapa and his people. He walked the talk, but he was a humble man, he didn't talk much about his army career,'' fellow veteran soldier Bernard Hatu told the Northern Advocate.

Taurua's last journey home from Auckland to Te Tii on the Te Puna inlet in the northern Bay of Islands took five days.

Along the route his body lay in state at Waitangi, Oromāhoe, and finally the wharenui at Te Tii.

His casket was also carried to his other associated Te Tii marae, Hiruharama Hou, on his way to the urupā on the hill where, in the weak winter sun on a clear, bold day, the rangatira was buried.