Politicians have paid tribute to Rotorua district councillor Maureen Waaka who died early today.


"Maureen was greatly admired and highly regarded not only in her role as a district councillor, but for her commitment to her iwi and the selfless way in which she worked towards bettering the lives of others,"


Labour's Maori Affairs spokesperson, Shane Jones, said.


"I worked with Maureen many times over the years. She always showed class, and was passionate about the advancement of both her Te Arawa people and the broader Rotorua community.

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"She was a great friend of the Labour Party. I know I speak on behalf of all the current and former Labour MPs in saying she was greatly appreciated for the effort she put in to supporting the party and kaupapa Maori.


  "My colleagues and I extend our deepest sympathies to Maureen's husband, John, her children, and her mokopuna," Mr Jones said.


The Maori Party has acknowledged the "tragic passing" of  Maureen Te Rangi Rere i Waho Waaka, nee Kingi of Te Arawa/Ngati Whakaue and Tuwharetoa/ Ngati Turumakina.


Co-leader Dr Pita Sharples reflected on her contribution as an outstanding ambassador, an accomplished entrepreneur and a woman of great principle.


"Maureen had great presence - not only as a former Miss New Zealand, but because of her clarity of vision and sense of purpose," he said.


"When she was awarded the New Zealand Commemoration Medal in 1990 it was an acknowledgment of her lifelong commitment to her iwi, but she will be missed by people right throughout our nation.


"I've known Maureen since secondary school days, we were friends and kept in touch throughout our lives."


Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell highlighted Mrs Waaka's contribhution to the community.


"Maureen served three terms on Lakes District Health Board as an elected member, where she took particular interest in disability support and community and public health. I greatly admired her courage when in 2002, she led a successful campaign against plans to build a casino in Rotorua - a legacy she will long be remembered for.


"She has played an integral role among our local community, as having served 18 years on the Rotorua District Council, and in her membership of the Te Arawa Standing Committee.


"I was humbled when she came out in support of my Gambling Harm Reduction Bill, as a true champion of the People before Pokies Campaign. She had huge influence through her networks in local government, and her leadership of Whanau Tupono (the Problem Gambling Foundation's ethnic and cultural committee).


"Maureen also had a significant impact in the tourism sector, having been born and bred from Ohinemutu, under the influence of Guide Rangi, Guide Kiddo, concert groups and kapa haka.


"She was the inaugural President of Maori in Tourism and launched the concept nationwide. She was also a member of the New Zealand Tourism Council and the current Te Maruata Waiariki representative of Local Government New Zealand.


"Our greatest sympathies are extended to her husband John, her five children, 14 grandchildren and her mokopuna tuarua."


E te taonga a te mate, takahia atu ra te ara whanui a tane, whakangaro atu ra ki te po e, moe mai ra.