The death of a homeless man has sparked a homicide investigation in Northland.

Police completed a scene examination early this morning following the death of a 52-year-old man.

Detective Sergeant John Clayton said the man known to people as "Eddie" had been outside the Te Mai shops, near Whangārei Hospital, yesterday when another man with dogs walked by.

Police believe the dogs began to fight and then there was an altercation between the men which lead to an assault.

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The homeless man was taken to hospital and died at 1.25am today, Clayton said.

Two bunches of flowers were placed on the edge of a police cordon outside shops where a homeless man was initially assaulted.

The man and his dogs were regular visitors to the shopping centre, often sitting outside on the street.

Police placed a cordon overnight and this morning the scene was blessed by a kaumatua before Whangārei firefighters hosed down the footpath.

Police had charged a 25-year-old man with assault. Officers were talking with the man again following the death.

Clayton appealed to any witnesses to the assault to come forward and help police. If you have information please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or contact Clayton through Whangārei police station on 09 430 4500.