The man who brought "real, inconsolable grief" to the family of 77-year-old farmer Peter Nilsson has been jailed for 17 years, with a minimum non-parole period of 15 years.

Marcus Bax, 39, who had admitted murdering Mr Nilsson in his bed, throwing a large chipper bar at him then attacking him with a butcher's knife, was sentenced in the High Court at Whangarei on Tuesday.

Mr Nilsson died as a result of multiple cuts to the neck.

Justice Edwin Wylie said that for many years Bax had looked up to Mr Nilsson as a role model and a father figure. He had been treated as one of the family.

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At some point, however, he had learned something about Mr Nilsson's past that had "disappointed" him.

On August 4, 2016, Bax, who was living with Mr Nilsson's adult son and daughter, and Ms Nilsson's partner, drove to the victim's home north of Te Kao and attacked him in his bed, using the chipper bar and a knife, inflicting injuries to his chest and abdomen, including two fractured ribs. Both items he found at the property.

He returned to his home, covered in blood and holding a butcher's knife, telling the son and daughter what he had done and asking them to help him destroy evidence. Fearing for their safety, they complied.

Ms Nilsson's partner drove to Mr Nilsson's home, found the body and informed the daughter, who called the police.

In her victim impact statement, Ms Nilsson said she had known Bax for more than 20 years and had trusted him enough to play with her daughter and to take her swimming, hunting and to the beach.

"I want to hate you but you're just an alien to me," she said.

Words could not express her family's pain and anguish.

Bax had written to the family, expressing the hope that one day he would be able to apologise to them in person and seeking their forgiveness.

Justice Wylie noted that Bax suffered various mental health issues, but had been found fit to stand trial.