A Northland driver who caused the deaths of two young men while under the influence of alcohol has been sentenced to 10 months' home detention.

The sentence is a "massive let-down" for the family of one of the victims, who say it will encourage others to drink and drive because they won't fear the consequences.

Glen Stewart McGee, a house painter from Okaihau, was sentenced in the Kaikohe District Court this week on two charges of careless driving causing death while under the influence of alcohol.

The court heard McGee had drunk six stubbies at a Bulman Rd address, north of Ohaeawai, on May 12 last year before driving home about 10pm.

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He stopped at SH1, saw the lights of an oncoming vehicle, and turned right. His vehicle collided with another ute travelling south on SH1 with a five hunters, two of whom were thrown out.

One, Colin Blade, 28, of Auckland, died at the scene, while his cousin Zion Harris-Davis, 23, of Kaeo, died after being flown to Auckland Hospital.

McGee recorded an alcohol level of 390 micrograms per litre of breath, just below the 400mcg of a criminal drink-driving offence. He pleaded guilty on February 15 after a sentence indication.

Robyn Blade said her only son had returned from Australia just three months earlier after she had a series of operations. Burying a child was the hardest thing any parent could go through, she said.

Latisha Oneroa, Colin Blade's sister, described him as full of life, bursting with charisma and a support to anyone who needed him.

Not only had she lost her only brother, best friend and mentor, but her two sons had lost the "uncle Colcol" who had taught them everything she couldn't and showed them how to hunt and fish.

Since his death she had lost motivation, her job and her house, and even the simplest things seemed unbearably hard.

Colin Blade had a partner and whangai son. Harris-Davis - described as a loving father - had a partner and three children, the youngest an infant.

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Prosecutor Duncan Coleman called for a jail term of 19 months, saying McGee had three previous drink-driving convictions and knew he shouldn't drive. Alcohol clouded his judgment.

Defence lawyer Doug Blaikie said the crash report pointed to a number of contributing factors, including a third vehicle which may have struck one of the men as he lay on the road and that the two deceased weren't wearing seatbelts.

Judge Keith de Ridder said McGee's actions were the "prime and operative" cause of the men's deaths. Had his breath-alcohol reading been just a little higher he would have been facing "far more serious charges with far more serious penalties.

The judge started with a sentence of 20 months' jail, raising it by three months for McGee's previous convictions, reducing for his guilty plea, resulting in a jail term of 19 months.

McGee was not entitled to the full discount for pleading guilty because his plea came about nine months after the crash.

Judge de Ridder said, however, the law required him to impose the least restrictive sentence possible that still provided denunciation and deterrence, so converted the sentence to a term of 10 months' home detention.

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McGee was also disqualified from driving for two years.

Afterwards, Robyn Blade said the sentence sent a message that "you can drink and drive, kill two people, and get home detention".

Latisha Oneroa said she felt "massively let down". She had seen offenders get jail terms for crimes which didn't involve taking a life while McGee had received "a slap on the wrist".