A humanitarian from Porirua is being flown home to New Zealand this week after unexpectedly dying in his sleep in Australia.

Mike Iafeta, described by his brother Sene Iafeta as "an amazing man" suffered a medical event in his sleep and died in Brisbane last week, leaving his community in mourning.

The "loving" and "selfless" 54-year-old co-founded and implemented the Koha Shed Australia after developing a vision in 2009 to help people.

The Koha Shed, which operates in numerous locations around New Zealand, Australia, and the South Pacific, is a judgement-free system in which people are welcome to come and take what they need for free, or donate goods as they see fit.


"He was a bit of rogue before that, one of those happy-go-lucky guys that took life as it came," Sene Iafeta told the Herald.

"About 2009 he had a vision that he just wanted to help people. The skill sets that he had at the time were pretty much zero. Some how he just managed to educate himself."

Mike surrounded himself with people who could help him achieve his goals, and started out spending time with the homeless and providing them with food and shelter.

He began working with victims of domestic violence, arranging safe exits for them and their children and helping them into refuges.

Before he died, he had been in the process of starting to sponsor an orphanage in Bali.

Iafeta said Mike's generosity knew no bounds.

"He was always the last person that he ever considered. He would give his food away, give his clothes away.

He was also "the greatest storyteller I've ever met".

Mike leaves behind his wife, Sharon Iafeta. Photo / Supplied
Mike leaves behind his wife, Sharon Iafeta. Photo / Supplied

"I call him the wordsmith . . . he drew [people] in so that they understood the pain and the suffering that the people he was trying to help were going through."

Since his death, the community response had been "amazing".

People had come from all over Australia to pay their respects and share their stories of how Mike had helped them in tough times.

One man showed up in tears, recounting the tale of how Mike organised to extract him and his children from a bad situation in Thailand.

"He couldn't believe what had happened and he said 'this guy saved our lives. One person put everything together and managed to get us back to Australia safely'."

In "true Mike fashion" the family have been so inundated with donations of food in their time of grief that they have been able to start giving out food to others who are hungry.

"It's a true reflection of the respect and aroha that everyone has for Mike.

"Things go around in circles in life and everything that he's given out is now starting to come back to him.

"He was a real loving man, there were no boundaries with his love."

Mike will be flown back to New Zealand on Wednesday and his family have started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the costs of the funeral and of moving his body.

So far they have raised more than $19,000.

It was his final wish to be laid to rest with his parents in Porirua.

He will be buried at Whenua Tapu cemetery in Pukerua Bay on Saturday.

Details of services will be posted on the Koha Shed Australia Facebook page, and by family on social media.