A Northland man who murdered the mother of his two children by drowning her in a stream will spend at least 15 years in jail.

Jimmy Peter Akuhata, 32, previously pleaded guilty to murdering 21-year-old Ashlee Louise Anne Edwards, on July 27, 2012, and appeared for sentence in the High Court at Whangarei today.

Justice Rebecca Ellis sentenced Akuhata to a term of life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 15 years.

Karen Edwards, Ashlee's mother, was relieved with the sentence and said they could now rebuild their shattered lives.

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She urged people to learn about domestic violence and get help for those who needed it.

"I can't stress enough the damage that domestic violence causes with the insidious cycles of harmful destruction. Make a stand. Don't tolerate abuse, bullying or violence," she said.

"The psychological impact with mental and emotional abuse leaves far deeper scars. This can stem to physical abuse and it can kill. It can happen to anyone."

It was revealed in court Akuhata had four previous convictions for male assaults female, three of which involved Ms Edwards.

Justice Ellis spoke to Akuhata and said Ashlee had made a terrible choice when she decided to be with him

"She got stuck in a terrible cycle so many abused women find themselves in,"Justice Ellis said.

"In reality you killed her for no reason at all."

Akuhata and Ms Edwards had been in an "on again, off again" relationship for about six and a half years.

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But when Akuhata murdered Ms Edwards, they were apart and there was a protection order in place for Ms Edwards and her two daughters.

On the night of July 26/27, 2012, Akuhata had two tickets for a promotional event at Malbas bar in Vine St, Whangarei, and invited Ms Edwards along. She agreed to go with him.

During the night, Akuhata became angry with Ms Edwards and text messages she had received on her cellphone. CCTV footage showed Akuhata and Ms Edwards leaving the bar about 1.55am and then 15 minutes later at the Lower Tarewa Rd bridge. They were arguing when Akuhata lifted Ms Edwards up and over the railing into Waiarohia Stream.

Once in the stream there was a struggle until Akuhata grabbed Ms Edwards' hair and held her head under the water. Once she showed no signs of life, he went home where he told a family member Ms Edwards was dead.

Lawyer Catherine Cull said Akuhata wanted to express his remorse and the guilty plea was an acceptance of his actions.