John Chadwick has been honoured as "a man who epitomised humanity and compassion" and described as a "lighthouse" who attracted people to him, at his tangi in Rotorua.

The body of Rotorua lawyer John Te Manihera Chadwick was brought on to Te Papaiouru Marae amid emotional scenes this morning.

It was a rare honour for the man who hails from Ngati Kahungunu territory in the Hawke's Bay after his whanau accepted an offer by Te Arawa kaumatua to hold his tangi at Te Arawa's paramount marae at Ohinemutu.

His coffin arrived in a hearse with his grandchildren riding next to him in the back and wife, Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick, up front with her brother, renowned artist Dick Frizzell.

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John Chadwick's grandchildren accompanied him in the hearse. Steve Chadwick (right) watches on. Photo/Stephen Parker
John Chadwick's grandchildren accompanied him in the hearse. Steve Chadwick (right) watches on. Photo/Stephen Parker

Hundreds of people had gathered for the welcome on to the marae by a combined Te Arawa welcoming party, but before they moved on Mrs Chadwick - choking back tears and voice strained by emotion - addressed those who had come to pay their respects.

She thanked all those who had come to support the family in their time of grieving.

"You are all like whanau to us, we are buoyed by your love," she said.

Hundreds turned out to welcome John Chadwick onto the marae. Photo/Stephen Parker
Hundreds turned out to welcome John Chadwick onto the marae. Photo/Stephen Parker

She also acknowledged her husband's whanau from Ngati Kahungunu who had graciously accepted Te Arawa's invitation to hold his tangi in Rotorua.

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Rotorua lawyer John Chadwick dies

Mr Chadwick died suddenly in Rotorua Hospital on Friday afternoon with his wife at his side.

Steve Chadwick is surrounded by family as she follows her husband's body onto the marae. Photo/Stephen Parker
Steve Chadwick is surrounded by family as she follows her husband's body onto the marae. Photo/Stephen Parker

Judge Louis Bidois spoke to the Rotorua Daily Post about the loss of his lifelong friend and mentor, the man he credited for "making" his legal career.

"I worked for him, with him and alongside him, but never against him," Mr Bidois said.

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"He was a very articulate and intellectual man who believed in what was right.

"He walked in many spheres, political, legal, cultural and in the community.

"John had a presence in any setting, he was like the lighthouse, he drew people to him.

"He dominated conversations and we became very good listeners in the early days, a very funny man, there was no dress code at our firm."

"The only thing we ever argued about was Ngongotaha and Waikite - he was a Koutu man and I was a Ngongotaha man. But, as he said, the colour of their jersey didn't matter when they walked through the door as clients.

"He was as comfortable with Joe Bloggs as he was with a chief of any iwi."

Mr Bidois said Mr Chadwick had been taken home over the weekend to spend "some quality family time with his whanau".

"Having him here is a great mark of the respect Te Arawa had for the man and for his wife."

He said the Chadwick and Frizzell families were still in shock but were also resilient.

"It shows we are not bulletproof and will all die eventually.

"But we were all pleased Steve was there with him, as hard as that sounds it would have been a comfort to him to have her there."

Maori Party co-leaders Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox also paid tribute to Mr Chadwick, saying he was a staunch advocate for young people and mentored generations of Maori lawyers and other community professionals who "beat a path to his door - to revel in his knowledge, to be regaled by his endless stories, and to be enraptured with his notorious wit and one liners".

Mr Flavell said the party paid tribute to "a man who epitomised humanity and compassion".

"With a sharp tongue and even sharper mind, John could articulate a point of view with a style that very few possess," Mr Flavell said.

"Because of these innate qualities, his submissions, whether in front of the judge or during the oral hearings on the proposed Te Arawa Partnership model, were legendary, and his influence will be carved in to the memories of those who were privileged to see him in full flight for years to come.

"But as all of us will attest, his greatest contribution was his role as a husband, father and koro," he said.

The marae had been readied for a large arrival with a marquee set up over the entrance to the wharenui, with significant groups from Mr Chadwick's background in the East Coast and Wanganui and parliamentary colleagues of Mrs Chadwick arriving from around the country, family spokesman Monty Morrison said.

Photo/Stephen Parker
Photo/Stephen Parker

"Everyone is welcome to come and share time with John, a warm welcome is extended to all."

Mr Morrison said the iwi was honoured that Mr Chadwick's whanau had accepted their invitation for him to be farewelled in Rotorua.

The funeral service will take place at Te Papaiouru Marae at 11am tomorrow followed by a private cremation.