It was a farewell befitting one of Rotorua's most prominent leaders as hundreds of mourners turned out to pay their respects to the whānau of Mala Grant, well-known figure in Māori health.

Grant's most recent role was as chief executive of Te Arawa Whānau Ora. Yet despite her impressive career, she was described as a humble, happy-go-lucky woman.

"Kāore te kūmara e kōrero mō tōna ake reka - the kūmara plant does not talk about its own sweetness," said Te Waata Cribb, Grant's nephew. "I would use that to describe her."

"A very humble lady, loved her family, loved her people. She cared with a great heart for the many people of Te Arawa. Not just the Māori community, but the Pākehā community that she had a lot of time for."

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Grant was hugely respected among Māori and Pākehā for her dedication to the health system. Her impact on the lives of many, shown by the numbers of people from across New Zealand - at the tangi to pay their respects.

"What you can see here, when you look at the people here, they're from a range of backgrounds - an unbelievable mix of people," said Nick Chater, a member of the Lakes Community Board.

While Grant may have passed away, her legacy lives on.

"She was still giving challenges right to the last week, around what she would like us to emulate - some of the values she'd like us to live by and the challenges the community still faces," said Piki Thomas, Grant's brother.

"We have those things clearly in our minds now - shared not just by our family but also among those civic leaders and Māori leadership that came through while she was sick at home."

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