Tributes are flowing for the late Pihopa Kingi whose death has been described as an enormous loss for Rotorua.

Kingi died in Rotorua Hospital on Tuesday, aged 88.

He had suffered a cancer relapse and was told just under four weeks ago that he had one month to live.

Kingi was considered one of the great Te Arawa leaders of his generation and has twice been acknowledged for his contribution to his people, being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in 1999 then a decade later becoming a Companion of the Queen's Service Order (QSO).


Yesterday some of those close to Kingi shared anecdotes and memories about him with the Rotorua Daily Post.

Many of the tributes highlighted the significance Kingi's legacy had for Maoridom and the extent of his work around social issues, health initiatives and economic trusts.

Kingi's son-in-law Te Taru White said in his 50 years of service, Kingi had been nothing but a hardworking man who made sacrifices for his people.

"He's been on trusts and corporations working hard to try to build our people's asset base.

"He's just been a real martyr and he'll be remembered as that kaumatua that went everywhere and did everything for his people," White said.

"He's old school, and now we've got technology so things are different but in those days everything was face to face, and that's what he did."

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Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said Kingi's passing was an enormous loss for Rotorua.

"We moved to Rotorua in 1975 and I first met him then, we've had very intimate dealings ever since because I was in health.

"He was a very wily politician - without being involved in politics. He knew how to summon people and give very clear messages," Chadwick said.

"He very strategically started movements like Te Papa Takaro, Tipu Ora, all of those national movements he started in Rotorua, and he didn't deal with ministers, he dealt with prime ministers - he went straight to the top."

Sir Toby Curtis said Kingi had a nice way of dealing with people.

"It was not so much a pleasure, but a privilege working with him, because he made you feel like the most important contributor at that moment.

"Being an older person, he guided people of my generation to prepare ourselves to take over the responsibilities that they had," Sir Toby said.

Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey said Kingi was an important figure in the area.

"Pihopa Kingi was a stalwart of the Rotorua community and will be sorely missed. Our thoughts go out to his whanau at this time. From the Beehive, the Parliament of NZ, to Tamatekapua, the tribal parliament of Te Arawa, we all mourn together."

Family spokesman Monty Morrison said Kingi's body would be moved to Te Arawa's paramount marae, Te Papaiouru, at Ohinemutu at 9am today.

His karakia whakamutunga (funeral service) will be held at 11am on Sunday.