Hundreds of mourners today paid tribute to an influential Bay iwi leader at the Te Whetu o te Rangi Marae in Welcome Bay.

Te Awanuiarangi Black, 48, helped pen a Maori dictionary, sat on the Maori Language Commission, was a regional councillor, iwi leader and was remembered as a loyal friend and generous spirit.

The tangi was attended by Maori MP Te Ururoa Flavell, singer Ria Hall, Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller, Anne Pankhurst, of the Chamber of Commerce, philanthropist and property developer Paul Adams and many family members and friends.

The sun bore down on at the service as Te reo o Te Ratana Tua Toru marching band played musical tributes while many others stood to share their thoughts and memories of Mr Black.

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Close friend Tommy Wilson, who gave Mr Black's eulogy, said Mr Black was born at 11am, November 11, 1968.

Buddhists believed the 11th day of the 11th month was the pinnacle of holiness, when prophets were born, he said.

"There is no question in my mind, my brother to another mother that we are farewelling is and will always will be a prophet."

Mr Wilson said in the past four days since Mr Black passed away on November 30 he had been asked: "What went wrong? He had so much more to give."

Mr Wilson said Mr Black had given so much, without asking for anything in return, that eventually he had nothing left in his tank to give.

He was admitted to in Tauranga Hospital about three weeks ago with organ failure.

A procession of people walk behind Awanui Black's body as it is taken away for burial. Photo/George Novak
A procession of people walk behind Awanui Black's body as it is taken away for burial. Photo/George Novak

"On the 11th day of the 11th month, he simply rain out of gas and I took him to hospital. It was his birthday," Mr Wilson said through tears.

"We both knew he had left his run too late. The chances of him becoming the best man at my wedding wasn't going to happen."

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Mr Wilson had dreamed of marrying his beloved, Sarah, with Mr Black standing by his side as best man in Bali.

"We went to plan B where he composed our wedding vows. It was to be his final composition, from a man who had written the Maori dictionary and penned some of the most lyrical masterpieces of the modern kapa haka genre. We will struggle to find another prophet like Awa for a long time."

Mr Wilson said to the thousand-strong congregation: "Awa has given a lot of people a lot of time.

"This was the true face of leadership, this is mana. When we start to measure success with mana and not money, then and only then will the wrongs of this world be put right.

"Awa knew this more than anyone else I had met, that's why we clicked."

Mr Wilson said the two men shared the belief that knowledge was the weapon for Maori to win future challenges.

From room 58 in Tauranga Hospital, Mr Black would sit up and look out to his beloved Mauao where he went through a bucket list of last wishes over the past few weeks.

"One of his biggest wishes was to have his wife and his boys by his side. Both of these were granted," Mr Wilson said.

"Awa hadn't said anything for a day and half then he opened his eyes and looked deep into the eyes of Ani.

"She cradled him in her arms, each of his hands was held by his favourite kuia. It was if a choir of angels were waiting above him to carry him home. He softly said to Ani, 'I love you' - and he quietly slipped away.

"A beautiful bro, who was loyal in his friendship, generous of spirit and he never let me down."

At the end of the service Maori warriors performed a haka at Te Whetu o te Rangi Marae where they then lined the path to the Indian motorbike waiting to take Mr Black's body for nehu (burial).

Maori leader Awanui Black passed away Wednesday. Photo/George Novak
Maori leader Awanui Black passed away Wednesday. Photo/George Novak

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