As mist lifted from the waters of Hokianga Harbour, the bell tolled outside the iconic red and white Catholic Church to begin the farewell service for Sarah Higgins.

About 170 family, friends and colleagues were ushered into the church on Motukaraka Pt today to remember the 25-year-old known for her political aspirations, red lipstick and her infectious smile.

Our Lady of Assumption Church Catholic Catechist Anthony Rudolph led the 90 minute service that was filled with eulogies celebrating Higgins' life.

Higgins died of a suspected suicide on the weekend and her body was taken home to her parents near Pawarenga, in Northland.


Her coffin was briefly taken to Ngai Tupoto Marae and then carried up the hill and placed in the centre of the church, draped with cream-coloured flowers.

A framed picture of Higgins took pride of place on top with other framed pictures of her growing up and with family.

Tony Maera, a cousin, spoke on behalf of Higgins' parents Donna and Chris.
He struggled to understand how she was someone so strong, tenacious and full of love but trapped within her own mind.

"I couldn't comprehend how that could be. I guess some people aren't meant to be trapped. We are OK with the fact you are free now, free to fly as high and far as you want."

Andy Baker, a local council member in Auckland, said Higgins was adopted by the community of Pukekohe.

He said it was pretty hard not to notice the "towering blonde with glowing ambition".

He said she had mapped out her political aspirations and was in an incredible rush to get there.

She was successful in getting elected to the Franklin Local Board at her first crack and was determined to make a difference.

Mourners gather at the funeral of Sarah Higgins at Our Lady of Assumption Church at Motukaraka on the Hokianga Harbour. Photo / Kristin Edge
Mourners gather at the funeral of Sarah Higgins at Our Lady of Assumption Church at Motukaraka on the Hokianga Harbour. Photo / Kristin Edge

"For someone that young to have that desire to work in the community is not that common. The courage of that young girl was just amazing," Baker said.

In a statement from good friend Johnny Aarts he recalled Higgins loving being in the farm in her gumboots and riding a motorbike. But equally she wouldn't be with out her false eyelashes and red lipstick.

He recalled her being hardworking and driven.

"She's a real people person and the first to help when you need it."

Her brother Nikolias Munro said Higgins was the role model his older brothers never were, which had those gathered laughing.

He learned many things from her but one lesson in particular.

"She taught me the importance of the people who you surround yourself with."

And for Higgins that included the Prime Minister John Key, during her time as a Young Nat.

To finish he touched the casket and said his sister was now in a better place.

Grandfather Gary Higgins remembered times when the boys couldn't keep up with Higgins, as she was "tough and a real worker".

"When she put her mind to something she stuck with it."

At the end of the service her casket was carried out of the church and placed in the back of a car.

She will be cremated.

Where to get help:

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906 (Palmerston North and Levin)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (available 24/7)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.