One of Maoridom's senior statesman, Timoti (Timi) te Heuheu, died early this morning after a long battle with cancer.

He was 68.

The Ngati Tuwharetoa leader was the brother of paramount chief, Sir Tumu te Heuheu, and husband of former Cabinet minister Georgina te Heuheu.

Mr te Heuheu was diagnosed last year with terminal cancer.


He worked as a tribal diplomat whose job was to link Maori, politicians and business.

One of his main achievements was his work with the joint working group for the 2020 Taupo-nui-a-tia project, which aims to see a 20 per cent reduction in nitrogen leaching into Lake Taupo by 2020.

He was a member of the iwi council of the Waikato District Health Board and a member of the iwi catchment committee Te Roopu Manukura for the University of Waikato.

Labour Party leader David Shearer said the party has offered its sincere condolences to Mr te Heuheu's family and also to the people of Ngati Tuwharetoa who have lost a well-known and popular leader.

"Timi was a colourful character who was much-loved by the community he lived in and the people whose lives he has touched over decades of service to New Zealand.

"He was a strong leader and often represented his older brother, the paramount chief of Tuwharetoa, Sir Tumu Te Heuheu.

"Timi was a political figurehead who engaged with both Labour and National-led Governments. He moved freely amongst many iwi and was a trusted friend to iwi leaders,'' Mr Shearer said.

Labour's spokesman for Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia says Timi te Heuheu represented Tuwharetoa interests passionately.


"His unstinting loyalty and commitment to Maoridom as a whole was admired by many. Having worked with him over several years I know Timi was trusted and respected, not just by Maori but by other New Zealanders as well. He was simply a kanohi ki te kanohi person. He will be sadly missed.

"Our deepest sympathy goes to his wife Georgina Te Heuheu, his two sons Mananui and Tuirirangi, his mokopuna and his wider whanau,'' Mr Horomia said.

Mr te Heuheu's involvement with the Waikato Regional Council extended to the 1990s when discussions began with Ngati Tuwharetoa, ahead of the signing of a memorandum of understanding in 1998.

Council chairman Peter Buckley said Mr te Heuheu had been a strong leader for Ngati Tuwharetoa and had been the key to the council's positive relationship with the tribe.

"With his help, the council has been able to build a sound relationship with members of the Ngati Tuwharetoa board.

"Over the years Timi has provided invaluable support to councillors. His high level comments, views and direction at a governance level have helped in the development of many plans, projects and policies,'' Cr Buckley said.

He said Mr te Heuheu's death was a ``significant loss'' and would be felt not only by councillors, but also by many staff who have worked closely with him over the years, including members of the Tai-ranga-whenua team.

"Timi had a stately, perhaps even regal presence about him. On behalf of the council, I'd like to extend my sincerest condolences to his wife, Georgina, and their whanau,'' Mr Buckley said.