Te Aupouri iwi are in mourning following the death of their leader Matiu Wiki.
The chairman of Te Aupouri Trust Board and his tribe's Treaty of Waitangi negotiator, Mr Wiki passed away in Kaitaia on Saturday. He was 65.
Mr Wiki worked tirelessly to promote development within the Far North area and to see the assets and resources of the Te Aupouri tribe put to full economic use.
A fluent Maori speaker, he also worked as an interpreter in the Maori Land Court and as an administrator in the Department of Maori Affairs.
Maori leader Sir Graham Latimer said he was "shocked and saddened" at Mr Wiki's death. Sir Graham described Mr Wiki as a very fair but disciplined man who had worked hard for Maori welfare.
"He always put his tribe ahead of himself. In whatever he did, he listened to his elders and he was never one to close the door on anyone," Sir Graham said.
Mr Wiki was given the role of leading Te Aupouri's treaty negotiations with the Crown in 2000, at a time when the difficult Muriwhenua claim had reached a stalemate.
In September 2004 he attracted criticism from other Muriwhenua parties for agreeing to take a settlement offer from the Government back to his people for a mandate. That mandate was not given but Mr Wiki continued to seek resolution for his people's land claim sooner rather than later.
It was time for the people to resolve the issue with the Crown so their grandchildren and great children did not inherit the problem, he said at the time.
His cousin Kingi Ihaka, a former SAS member who had served with Mr Wiki in the New Zealand Army, said those sentiments were typical of Mr Wiki.
"He was always instrumental in getting things happening and looking for the advancement and betterment of his people," Mr Ihaka said.
Shane Jones, chairman of Te Ohu Kai Moana and Northland Labour candidate, said he had known Mr Wiki since he was young.
"He was always progressive. In fact, he was one of the first iwi leaders to support the Fisheries Commission in settling the internal Maori fisheries allocation wrangle," Mr Jones said.
"He was respected for his community service and his professional work in the Maori Land Court. The tribe will feel his loss keenly as he had a pivotal role in driving the Muriwhenua treaty claim negotiations. It is unfortunate that he was unable to complete this important work."
Mr Jones said Mr Wiki's death was likely to make the already protracted settlement process even more difficult.
"Kua hinga te totara i te wao nui a Tane, ka tangi hotuhotu nga manu. As we say in Maori, the great totara tree from the forest of Tane has fallen and the birds cry with its passing," Mr Jones said.
Mr Wiki spent a career as a soldier and instructor in the New Zealand Army, which he joined as a 16-year-old in 1956, and served in the Malay Borneo conflict in 1964. He was a promoter of the military as a favoured career option for young Maori.
Mr Wiki, who was reared in Te Kao, is survived by his wife Waihuka, of Ngati Porou descent, his sons and mokopuna.
Hundreds of members of Te Aupouri are expected to attend his tangihanga at Te Kao, north of Kaitaia.
On Saturday his body lay at the Ahipara Marae, Koroukore, before being moved to the Te Aupouri tribal marae, Potahi, to lie in state in the meeting house, Waimirirangi.