A homeless man who died after being assaulted outside a Whangārei shopping centre has been described as a "friendly, gentle man who was devoted to his dogs".

The news of his death shocked others who had come to know the man and his dogs as they wandered the streets.

The 52-year-old, who had his dogs with him, was allegedly assaulted outside the Te Mai shops on Maunu Rd about 6.15pm on Monday.

Police said a 25-year-old man with dogs walked by.

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The dogs began to fight and then there was an altercation between the men which led to the assault.

Police allege the older man was punched in the head, knocked unconscious and was taken to Whangārei Hospital but died about 1.25am yesterday.

A homicide investigation was launched and the scene was cordoned off until officers had completed an examination.

Police were working to notify the victim's next of kin and were not in a position to release his name.

A post-mortem examination was carried out yesterday.

A 25-year-old man, from Raumanga, made a brief appearance in Whangārei District Court yesterday before Judge Duncan Harvey.

He was charged with manslaughter and was granted interim name suppression. He was remanded in custody until January 31 when he will appear in the High Court.

Flowers had been placed at the base of a power pole at the scene by yesterday morning.

Flowers were placed at the Te Mai shops where a 52-year-old man known as
Flowers were placed at the Te Mai shops where a 52-year-old man known as "Eddie" was initially assaulted, then later died in hospital. Photo/ Tania Whyte

Georgina Houlden said over the last six months she had come to know Eddie and his black and white staffy-cross dog Sky and then his second dog Rosie.

She was a frequent visitor to the shops where Eddie could be found with his dogs.

Through conversations she learned Eddie was originally from Christchurch, had been in Australia, moved around New Zealand before arriving in Whangārei.

He had also previously been a chef but health conditions prevented him from working.
"I found him to be a very kind, friendly and gentle person. He was totally devoted to those dogs and looked after them extremely well," she said.

She believed Eddie had made himself a makeshift home in a shed at the old rugby league club at Jubilee Park.

He was also a regular outside the bakery on Maunu Rd.

Suzi Schooling said she had come to know Eddie over the last few months.

"I'd always stop and say hello. Once I got pregnant I used to crave bakery food all the time and I'd always go to the one he sat outside of, and bless his heart he would always say to me and my partner 'congratz guys'.

"Poor man he was lovely and his dog was beautiful as well."

Tim Howard was also another that came to know Eddie and the news of his death came as a shock.

"He was very fond of that dog, they were inseparable. I just saw him the day before ... this is shocking."

Through Facebook people expressed their condolences and remembered Eddie, and some even suggested people should "chip in and give him a decent send off".

Others said he was never rude, he always put the dogs ahead of himself and didn't harass anyone to give money "he sat there patiently".

Late yesterday friends of Eddie had taken the dogs and with the help of a local dog rescue agency had managed to find them a temporary home together in Northland where they could recuperate.

The canine duo were checked over by vets and given vaccinations. Once they were settled they would then go through a rehoming process.

Anyone with information about the assault is asked to contact Detective Sergeant John Clayton through the Whangarei Police Station on 09 430 4500 or you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.