One of Maoridom's most respected leaders, Timoti "Timi" Morehu te Heuheu, died yesterday, aged 68.

The Ngati Tuwharetoa kaumatua had been suffering from cancer, diagnosed last year.

Mr te Heuheu was the right-hand man to his brother, paramount Tuwharetoa chief Sir Tumu te Heuheu, and husband of former Cabinet minister Georgina te Heuheu.

Mr te Heuheu worked to build solid communication between iwi and Government and business.


He was involved with a number of groups including the Maori boards at the University of Waikato and the Waikato District Health Board as well as with the Waikato Regional Council in the 1990s, when discussions began with Ngati Tuwharetoa ahead of the signing of a memorandum of understanding in 1998.

His achievements in recent years included his work with the 2020 Taupo-nui-a-tia project, which aims to see a 20 per cent reduction in nitrogen leaching into Lake Taupo by that year.

Yesterday, tributes flowed for a man who was described as a mighty totara among Maori.

Prime Minister John Key described the fallen leader as a great facilitator of relationships and a bridge between iwi and between Maori and the Crown.

He spoke of Mr te Heuheu's "great diplomacy".

Long-time friend and former MP Tuku Morgan said Mr te Heuheu had a gift of bringing people together.

"He was the sort of person who valued relationships ... He had relationships with corporate leaders, with ordinary folk from the marae."

Mr Morgan said his old friend had continued the work of his late father, Sir Hepi te Heuheu, in uniting iwi from around the country.

"He was his father's son - a man of very few words, but when he spoke it was compelling, meaningful and it stirred your mind."

Mr te Heuheu's tangi will be at Waihi near Turangi.

He is survived by Georgina and sons Mananui and Tuirirangi.

- Additional reporting: APNZ