A renowned Māori elder collapsed and died after giving a speech at the farewell event for one of the founding members of Māori Television this week.

Charles Berryman died on Wednesday at the Māori TV buildings in East Tāmaki, Auckland, during a farewell for founding staff member Mark Bullen.

Witnesses at the scene said Berryman delivered a brief speech paying tribute to Bullen, and upon finishing and returning to the crowd, collapsed.

A "frantic" effort to resuscitate Berryman followed among the 150 people at the event, but he died at the scene.

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Berryman was a past employee of Māori TV who had worked as general manager of human resources.

Known as an eloquent speaker of te reo Māori, Berryman spent many years as a teacher and lecturer, editing several te reo Māori books.

Berryman was also the iwi liaison at Auckland International Airport and served as a cultural adviser to Manukau City.

Close friend Jim Mather worked with Berryman at Māori TV for many years when he was chief executive of the station, and was present at the farewell event on Wednesday.

"It's just profoundly tragic for the whānau of Māori TV who are there at present, plus all the former colleagues who returned to celebrate the occasion," Mather told the Herald.

"The occasion, which was initially one of celebration, became a profoundly sad and poignant occasion for everyone. It was a big event for Māori TV.

"It was just very unexpected. Charles Berryman, the elder, is a highly respected kaumātua and former general manager of human resources at Māori TV, so it makes it even more poignant for a lot of people who were there."

Charles Berryman and Jim Mather at the launch of Auckland University of Technology's Māori Expo in 2007. Photo / File
Charles Berryman and Jim Mather at the launch of Auckland University of Technology's Māori Expo in 2007. Photo / File

Minister of Employment Willie Jackson told the Herald he would be attending the tangi for Berryman today.

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"He was a very popular man, Māori teacher, kaumātua, broadcaster," Jackson said.

Comment from Māori TV has been sought by the Herald.

Kaumātua Charles Berryman hongis Airbus SVP Pacific's Isabelle Floret at Auckland International Airport in 2014. Photo / File
Kaumātua Charles Berryman hongis Airbus SVP Pacific's Isabelle Floret at Auckland International Airport in 2014. Photo / File