In heartfelt words which touched those in the courtroom, Wanaka father of two Kahu Vincent and his family have told of the day their lives changed forever, and its aftermath.

Mr Vincent went to the Wanaka Night 'n Day store early on May 9 to buy a soft drink and, for reasons still unknown, was brutally assaulted.

He suffered serious brain injuries and nearly died. Almost four months later, he is back home, relearning basic tasks such as walking, talking, eating and toileting.

Yesterday, family members had their chance to be heard in the High Court at Invercargill, where Leon Terence Rowles was being sentenced for causing grievous bodily harm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

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Rowles bowed his head and blinked back tears as Mr Vincent's older brother Dallas, mother-in-law Jodie Stevenson and partner Jade Makura spoke, and statements from Mr Vincent, his father Hemi and his father-in-law Callum Stevenson were read by Crown prosecutor Mary-Jane Thomas.

Ms Makura said her life "came to a horrible halt" on May 9 after the "brutal and senseless attack on a kind, caring person".

A few days before the couple were to celebrate their 10th anniversary together, she was sitting at his bedside in Dunedin Hospital's intensive care unit, "completely and utterly heartbroken", not knowing whether he would ever wake up from a coma.

"My heart felt like it was being ripped from my body. I wondered if the kids would grow up without their daddy. All this pain has been caused ... and for what?"

Mr Vincent was unable to pick up his children because he had no strength, she said. He could not be left alone to care for them because he was not fast enough to react to their needs.

"You have robbed us of doing normal family things. Kahu could be impaired for the rest of his life."

Mrs Stevenson spoke of the "indescribable" physical, emotional and financial toll on a family whose lives had been "shattered".

"My son-in-law was beaten to within an inch of his life in an unprovoked attack he didn't ask for or deserve."

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She said Rowles had written a letter of apology but she questioned its sincerity.

"I believe you are sorry you got caught and sorry you will have to spend a long time in prison."

Dallas Vincent said he was "angry, sad and frustrated".

"I couldn't understand why my brother had been put in this position.

"When I saw him in ICU I had dark thoughts towards the people who had done this."

However, he said he was grateful his brother was getting better and now believed the right thing for the family to do was focus on supporting him.

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"I realise the damage has been done, but we need to move forward."

Kahu Vincent said he had once lived an active life but all that had gone. He had missed his daughter's fourth birthday and he "felt like a child" having to relearn how to care for himself.

"I hate what you have put my family through ... Your gutless attack will carry on making life difficult for me and my family for a long time," he said in his statement.

Callum Stevenson said he had "horror, tears, heartache and anger" at the impact of the assault.

"[Kahu] has to have his food pureed for him and a nurse to change his nappy. His future is uncertain. Hopefully, he will get to be more than a whisper of his former self."

Hemi Vincent said one of the hardest things to deal with was he had considered Rowles a friend.

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"Maybe, one day, he will tell us why this happened."

Justice Cameron Mander sentenced Rowles to eight years' imprisonment and ordered he not be released for at least four years.