A Hastings community has been left reeling from the sudden loss of a man dedicated to his family, Maori tikanga, and sharing his knowledge with the next generation.

Yesterday, 43-year-old Stewart James Niwa Vercoe - known as Niwa - died as a result of a two-car crash on the Napier-Taupo rd near Te Haroto.

The father is being remembered for the role he played in the Flaxmere community, and the teachings he provided to students at Flaxmere Primary school, where he taught kapa haka.

He was travelling with the family at the time of the crash. His wife Miri remains in Hawke's Bay Hospital in a critical condition. Their sons, Raturoa and Tuhoe, were in serious but stable conditions.

He was being remembered amongst other Flaxmere figures for the passion he had for his culture, Te Reo Maori, and Maori tikanga.

Flaxmere councilor Henare O'Keefe said although Mr Vercoe had passed, "his teachings will definitely live on for many generations to come".

"He was an exceptional kapa haka exponent and tutor, not just in our Flaxmere schools. He was very passionate about his culture. He touched a lot of lives in that respect."

Kapa haka was how Mr O'Keefe knew the tutor, who used to teach children at Te Aranga marae.

"Any powhiri's or dignitaries into Flaxmere you could be assured he would be at the front of it, helping to usher in our visitors."

Although he was held in high regard in the community, and considered a "central figure" amongst local schools, he remained a humble man, Mr O'Keefe said.

Flaxmere local Henry Heke, from Te Puni Kokiri, said Mr Vercoe's passing was "going to be a big loss" felt in the community.

He knew the teacher through Flaxmere college, and remembered him as being very helpful for students, and rangatahi, dedicated to kapa haka, and his culture. He understood Mr Vercoe was Tuhoe.

He said there needed to be more men like Mr Vercoe in the community - a "young maori, rangatahi...maori speaker, an advocate for the reo and the culture and tikanga... a role model".

"It's just a bit of a travesty that one so young has left. Anyone so young who has such a role in the community, it leaves a big gap."

Mr Heke works with the kappa haka group of Flaxmere's Peterhead School - which will be hosting the Ngati Kahungunu kapa haka completion.

"One of the things that haunts me is that somewhere out there, there's going to be a group that's probably not going to come because he was teaching them."

Mr Heke's family had also been travelling on SH5 yesterday around the time the crash occurred, driving back to Hawke's Bay from the {Maori Kings coronation.]

This brought the region's road toll, from Wairoa to Tararua, up to 16; three more than the total number of fatalities for the region last year.