The Maori Party is mourning the loss of 28th Maori Battalion veteran Hingangaroa Smith, who has died in Auckland.

Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said the country would be forever indebted to the veterans of the battalion.

"We pay homage to the selfless service of a hero, Hingangaroa Smith, and others of the Maori Battalion who have gone before him.

"Mr Smith had an amazing spirit, and although he didn't often reflect on the atrocities he experienced while on active service in Egypt, he often spoke about missing his comrades he stood shoulder to shoulder with, who have since passed away. We remember his tenacity, courage and his bravery. We will never forget."

Mr Flavell - who is godfather to one of Mr Smith's grandchildren - sent his condolences to the veteran's whanau and iwi: Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, Ngati Porou and Ngai Tahu.


Party co-leader Marama Fox said she was "absolutely heartbroken" over Mr Smith's death.

"His death leaves a gaping hole in our hearts, and while a tiny glint of happiness emerges knowing he has been reunited with his tipuna and members of his 28th Maori Battalion family, I pay my utmost respect to him and to all those who served so that we may know the freedoms we take for granted today."

Maori Television reported that Mr Smith was raised in Tolaga Bay on the East Cape under the name Major Jackson, but when he went to get a birth certificate to join the battalion, he found out he was a whangai (adopted) and his real name was Hingangaroa Smith.

At the age of 14, he enlisted with D Company, saying he was 16 years old, but once his brothers - who were also in the battalion - found him, he was quickly moved to C Company.

Maori Television said Mr Smith is survived by five children and many mokopuna and great-grandchildren.

He also leaves behind C Company comrades Archbishop Brown Turei, Nolan Raihania, Epeneha Ratapu and William Hei Walker (also known as Pom Walker).