The respected Te Arawa kuia died suddenly last night at her Froude St home in Rotorua at the a' />

Rotorua's beloved Guide Bubbles Mihinui has died.

The respected Te Arawa kuia died suddenly last night at her Froude St home in Rotorua at the age of 87.

Watu Mihinui, one of her six children, said her mother's death was unexpected.

Thousands of mourners from around New Zealand are expected in Rotorua this week to farewell the softly spoken kuia.

Dorothy Huhana Mihinui became an apprentice guide in the Whakarewarewa thermal village in 1936.

From 1970, following the death of the famous Guide Rangi, she became a senior guide and trained young guides at the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, now Te Puia.

A founding member of the Maori Women's Health League in 1937, she remained involved in many community groups and issues even after her retirement in 1985.

That year Mrs Mihinui was awarded an MBE which was followed in 2000 by the Distinguished Companion New Zealand Order of Merit.

In 2004 she was one of five people to receive a Nga Tohu a Ta Kingi Ihaka/Sir Kingi Ihaka Award, given to kaumatua whose lives have been dedicated to helping retain Maori arts and culture in their communities.

Rotorua historian Don Stafford said Mrs Mihinui's knowledge of the old guiding days would be missed.

"We have lost the connection between guides of yesteryear and guides of today.

"Her loss will be felt by everyone because most people turned to her when they wanted to learn about Te Whakarewarewa."

Mrs Mihinui's tangi will be at Wahiao Meeting House at Whakarewarewa and her funeral service will be on Friday.