City leaders have paid tribute to iwi leader and Bay of Plenty regional councillor Te Awanuiarangi Black who died earlier today.

Mr Black, 48, died in Tauranga Hospital this afternoon after a short illness. He was a highly respected iwi leader and served on the Maori Language Commission.

Close friend Tommy Wilson told the Bay of Plenty Times Mr Black passed away with his four sons by his side.

"Two of his favourite old kuia were holding each of his hands, the room was filled with whanau and friends and his loving wife Ani cradled his head. 'Bye bye my bro'.


"He was a warrior, a leader and a spiritual cowboy," Mr Wilson said.

"There is a huge gap left in Tauranga Moana, wider than the entrance of Te Awanui Harbour itself, the harbour he was named after.

"I had the honour of spending his last days with him, he was my brother from another mother.

"He was my cultural advisor and I was his edutainment officer."

Mr Wilson said the pair shared common values. Both believed education was the answer to issues facing Maori, he said.

Fellow regional councillor and former Tauranga mayor Stuart Crosby said Mr Black was highly respected and news of his death was "devastating".

"It's a huge loss, not only for his whanau but for Tauranga Moana and New Zealand as a whole," he said.

He had known Mr Black for many years and the two often crossed paths at official functions during his time as mayor.


"His knowledge of Maori protocol at his age was phenomenal and to see him on a marae . . . executing Maori protocol was just phenomenal to watch," Mr Crosby said.

"He was one of those new generation of young Maori who could cross over from the Maori world to non-Maori world.

He described Mr Black as a "quiet" educator.

"Education was very important to him, particularly (for) young people."

Regional Council chairman Doug Leeder said he valued the work Mr Black did for the council.

"He was a highly respected man in Maoridom and Tauranga Moana."

"In the short time I had known him, he was a great value to council and the processes we run."

Mr Black's immense contribution to council, the community and Te Reo would be a huge loss, he said.

"He did Maori proud, and he did the regional council proud.

"When he spoke he held the utmost respect from everyone listening to him. His understanding of Te Reo and tikanga was excellent. Yet, he was a very humble man.

"He is much to soon gone and his capabilities will be missed."

Mr Black's daughter was due to fly in from London today.

His body would be taken to Te Whetu o te Rangi Marae in Welcome Bay today where his body would lay in state until nehu (burial) on Sunday.

Te Awanuiarangi Black

■ Tauranga Moana Iwi Leaders' Group chairman
■ Advocate for the campaign to make an official commemoration day for the New Zealand Wars.
■ A commissioner at the Maori Language Commission
■ Lecturer at Te Wananga o Raukawa
■ A contributing writer for the first monolingual Maori language dictionary
■ Part of the treaty negotiations group Te Au Maro o Ngati Pukenga covering areas in Tauranga Moana, Hauraki, Maketu and Whangarei
■ In 2015 he led the first Tauranga Moana team from the Mataatua regionals to Te Matatini kapa haka nationals in Christchurch.
Source - Maori Television