The best grandad in the world - a simple but moving tribute put on the casket of former governor-general Sir Paul Reeves at his state funeral began in Auckland today.

The 78-year-old died of cancer on Sunday, and his funeral took place today in Parnell's Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Sir Paul's daughter, Maori Land Court Judge Sarah Reeves, who spoke on behalf of sisters Bridget and Jane, recalled seeing her father in hospital before he passed.

"We leaned in, he lifted his oxygen mask and said 'bugger'," she said.


Judge Reeves said his daughters were often asked what it was like growing up with Sir Paul as their father.

"As normal as you can get when your father is a priest, bishop and governor-general."

Judge Reeves said her father was a keen runner and got into sailing.

"He really enjoyed physical challenges and was still going to gym regularly up until July."

He also really loved his grandchildren, she said.

"We feel sad he will not see his grandchildren as they grow towards adulthood."

Judge Reeves said the family is comforted "his was a life well lived".

"We are going to miss dad so much, his absence leaves a huge hole in our family."

Archbishop of York: Sir Paul broke down barriers

The congregation, which included 200 clergy, outgoing Governor-General Anand Satyanand and Prime Minister John Key, were earlier told the good Sir Paul achieved lived with him and would be buried with him.

"Sir Paul was a Maori Christian in whom there was no guile and for that the communion was exceedingly grateful,'' said the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

Sir Paul broke down barriers of all kinds in church and society, he said.

"He celebrated and brought to prominence his Maori heritage in the life of this nation and the church in a way that honoured and respected all throughout the communion.''

He said after Sir Paul retired as governor-general in 1991, he went to New York with the church, where his elegant voice and unique perspective meant the church could raise many pressing issues facing the United Nations, its related organisations.

That wakened the church to its responsibilities in the international community, he said.

"With his death the church and the global community have lost one of the great iconic figures,'' said Archbishop Sentamu.

In a comment directed at Sir Paul's widow, Lady Beverley Reeves and her family,

Archbishop Sentamu said the community grieved with them but "also rejoiced that here is a man who was proud to be a priest of the Anglican church''.

He was a man of great dignity and of great respect, he said.

Sir Paul a "hope peddler"

The Most Reverend David Moxon said Sir Paul was a "hope-peddler", a "towering tree in the canopy of our forest" and was "forthcoming and honest".

"We love him and respect him because he summed up what it meant to be an agent of God," he said.

Archbishop Moxon paid tribute to his relationship with his wife Beverly, his work overseas and his relationship with Maori and Pakeha.

"He spoke of having one leg in the Pakeha world and one leg in the Maori world and was beginning to feel the stretch."

Sir Don McKinnon paid tribute to Sir Paul's work in New Zealand, the Commonwealth and the world, saying he always "did his homework" before setting off on a task, whether it be representing the Anglican church to the United Nations or his work as part of a special envoy in Guyana.

"He didn't achieve all he wanted to in Guyana, but for three or four years he gave that country peace."

Derek McCormack, the vice chancellor of AUT, recalls graduation ceremonies at the university with Sir Paul, who was once the unversity's chancellor.

"I could hear him quietly in his steadily and warm voice congratulate each graduate with the name that had just been spoken."

Mr McCormack said some graduates responded "cheers mate", while others were compelled to hug him in response.

He said Sir Paul made each student feel as though they were the most important person to ever pass across the stage.

As Sir Paul was taken to the cathedral in a slow march, he was accompanied by a full military guard of honour.

Mourners on either side of the street bowed their heads and police officers saluted as he passed and when his casket was removed from the hearse at the cathedral, a rousing haka broke out.

As his casket was taken from the cathedral back to the hearse, students again broken into haka, before a moving waiata farewelled the great New Zealander.

- Herald online, NZPA