Up to 5000 people - including the Maori King, Tuheitia Paki - are expected to pay their respects to Ngati Hine elder Erima Henare at Otiria Marae today.

Mr Henare, who was 62, died suddenly in Wellington on Wednesday night. Tribal leaders say his passing leaves "a huge hole" not just in Ngati Hine but also in Ngapuhi and the rest of the nation.

After a service in Wellington Mr Henare's body was flown to Auckland on Thursday evening where he stopped at Te Puea Marae in Mangere Bridge, at the invitation of Waikato-Tainui, before travelling to the family home in Kauri, north of Whangarei, and then to Otiria Marae near Moerewa, arriving about 2am yesterday.

Otiria Marae is where his father Sir James Henare was farewelled in 1989.


Discussions about Mr Henare's final resting place began about 4am and were resolved by 7am, before the first of thousands of manuhiri arrived.

Ngati Hine leader Pita Tipene said he would lie at Otiria Marae until Sunday afternoon, when he would be taken to Motatau Marae south of Kawakawa.

An initial service would be held at 10am on Monday in the whare tupuna, Manu Koroki, before his final journey to the nearby Takapuna Wahi Tapu for a service and burial at 11am.

Mr Tipene expected up to 5000 people would pay their respects today, including the Maori King and a large delegation from Waikato-Tainui. A similar number braved the rain yesterday. They included representatives from many Tai Tokerau iwi, schools and councils.

Two large marquees were set up to keep new arrivals dry as they waited to be welcomed into the whare tupuna. The rain, combined with the passage of thousands of feet and hundreds of cars and buses, turned the area around the marae into a muddy mire.

Mr Henare's parents, Sir James and Lady Rose, are also buried at Takapuna Wahi Tapu. The cemetery takes it name from the first person to be buried there, Erima's grandmother Hera Henare (nee Subritzky).

She died in the 1918 influenza epidemic while living in Takapuna on Auckland's North Shore and caring for sick and wounded soldiers returning from World War I.