Close whānau and friends of rugby star Sean Wainui are seeking special exemption to leave Auckland to be present at his tangi, Government officials have confirmed.
Māori All Blacks and Chiefs player Wainui, 25, died in a single-vehicle crash on Monday morning at McLaren Falls Park, near Tauranga.
The young father leaves behind wife Paige and children Kawariki and Arahia, with fundraising to support the family in Wainui's absence now climbing above $200,000.
Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed health officials had been approached for travel exemptions by those wanting to pay their respects to Wainui.
Bloomfield said travel exemptions include extended criteria to include wider family members.
Deputy PM Grant Robertson added that deaths during Covid and the issuing of exemptions is a "truly difficult area".
He said the advice they receive is about minimising risk and funerals are where people find it hard to stay physically distant.
He said there will always be a limit to numbers, but he said the ministry does take cultural needs into account.
"His heart goes out" to Wainui's family at this time, Robertson said.
It comes as a group of friends and whānau performed a rousing haka for Wainui's widow Paige and their children as the rugby star began his final journey home for his tangi.
Heartbroken Paige held her children close as they witnessed the spine-tingling haka.
She shared the poignant tribute to her Instagram account.
"This pain is unbearable. Kei te hoki koe ki tō whenua taurikura my baby māku koe e arahi. I know your waiting for us. We're on our way to gizzy bringing you home now baby," she wrote in the caption.
Just a few months ago, a video of Wainui teaching his 8-month-old son Kawariki to do the haka went viral.
The couple also only recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary six weeks ago. At the time, Wainui posted a loving caption about life with his best friend Paige.
"One year of marriage with my darling. Love you more and more every day. Here's to another 100," he wrote.
Fundraiser for family nears $200,000
Almost $210,000 has so far been raised for Wainui's via a Givealittle page set up by the Chiefs.
"Sean Wainui was an incredible rugby player, father, husband and proud of his Māori heritage," the Chiefs wrote on the fundraising page.
The Chiefs consider Paige, Kawariki and Arahia part of their whānau.
"With the outpouring of love from the rugby world and fans both nationally and internationally, our club wanted to set up a way we can all contribute to Sean's family during this difficult time.
"Once a Chief, always a Chief," they said.
A tough week for the Chiefs whānau
Chiefs Rugby Club chief executive Michael Collins told the AM Show it had been a really tough week for Sean's whānau, the wider Chiefs players and staff.
"A sudden loss like this is always hard to handle."
Wainui has won numerous awards, including the Chiefs' coach player-of-the-year award, and had a remarkable career since the end of his school days. He was a player coaches could depend on, Collins said.
Collins said the Givealittle page set up had been from all of rugby to raise some koha from the family and create a space where fans, season members and sponsors can start their grieving purpose.
While some of the All Blacks players have been told they don't need to play in the next game, Collins said he thinks Sean would want people to go out and play and do the things they would normally be doing.
"He was such a genuine character, lovely bloke, very humble."
Collins said it was clear how much he loved his family. "Every time you spoke to him, you could see it in is face, in his voice, in his expressions."