A former Rotorua teacher who needed $100,000 for lifesaving cancer treatment has died.

Whitinga Harris was fighting stage four colon cancer but had hopes of extending his life to be with his young sons through an unfunded cancer drug.

The 31-year-old, who did his teacher training at Western Heights Primary School last year, died on Sunday surrounded by his family.

Fundraising efforts had been held in Rotorua and Northland to help fund the drug for Harris with more than $70,000 being raised before he died.

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His father-in-law, Jack Grace from Rotorua, who organised two events in Rotorua to raise money, said Harris died on Sunday at Kawakawa Hospital in Northland.

He has been cremated and Grace's daughter, Ruby, and Ruby and Harris' two sons, Waaka, 9, and Heremia Grace-Harris, 12, are going to plant a tree on their whānau property at Otaua and have his ashes spread there, Grace said.

"Whitty fought all the way but in the end he just couldn't get over the final hurdle . . . the whānau all slept up at Kawakawa Hospital for many days leading to his death and were there at the end."

Grace said on behalf of his whānau they wanted to thank the Rotorua people for everything they had done.

"We would like to thank our Rotorua people for loving and supporting Whitinga . . our community knows how to support its own, thank you."

Harris was doing his teacher training in Rotorua when he collapsed at the school.

Tests found colon cancer that spread to his stomach. Cancer specialists told Harris and his family there's an immunotherapy drug called Keytruda that could extend his life but it's unfunded in New Zealand.

His family swung into fundraising mode with several events being held in Rotorua and Northland, where Harris was originally from.

Harris, who graduated as a teacher and was due to start work this year at Western Heights Primary School, instead moved back to Northland where he was getting chemotherapy and was trying to recover.

Events held in Rotorua included Rua Duets on June 8, where Grace, a talented singer, teamed up with other local singers to perform a concert.

Heremia Grace-Harris, 13, and Jack Grace before the Rua Duets fundraiser for Whitinga Harris. Photo / File
Heremia Grace-Harris, 13, and Jack Grace before the Rua Duets fundraiser for Whitinga Harris. Photo / File

Another event was held in May called Four Mothers Four Stories, which highlighted mothers in the Rotorua community.

Rotorua youngster Miles Corbett, 7, raised more than $3000 for Harris by running the Rotorua Mini Marathon and getting sponsorship. Miles got to know Harris after he spent time in his Year 3 classroom at Ngongotahā Primary School last year.

He was motivated to help in the fundraising drive because "Everyone needs to stay with their mum and dad".

Grace said the funds raised would now go towards Harris' children's futures.

Rotorua's Miles Corbett raised more than $3300 for Whitinga Harris by running the Mini Marathon. Photo / File
Rotorua's Miles Corbett raised more than $3300 for Whitinga Harris by running the Mini Marathon. Photo / File