The carpark outside Taheke marae was full to the brim, and cars were slotted down the side of the road for hundreds of metres.

Minarapa (Mina) Mitai-Ngatai QSM's friends and whānau hugged, kissed, wept and laughed as they awaited the arrival of his hearse this afternoon .

People of all ages gathered at the Okere Falls marae, from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O Ruamata's youngest students to Mitai-Ngatai's own generation.

Mina Mitai-Ngatai's body is brought onto Taheke Marae. Photo/Stephen Parker
Mina Mitai-Ngatai's body is brought onto Taheke Marae. Photo/Stephen Parker

Birds could be heard faintly in the background, but the strongest sound was spoken Te Reo as old friends caught up and comforted one another.

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As the last cars arrived, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O Ruamata senior students sang soothing unaccompanied melodies from a shaded corner of the marae grounds.

After three songs, a white van backed up to the front fence and the singing stopped.

More than a hundred people dressed in black drew to the centre of the car park.

Mitai-Ngatai's hearse was carried out of the van and young men with taiaha led the group as they were called on to the marae.

Before the marae steps, they performed a spirited wero.

There was then a personal twist to the traditions, as a saxophone recording of Danny Boy was played over a speaker.

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People sang along as the coffin was brought up the steps and carefully placed down.

The kaumatua and school students already seated around the marae grounds were then joined as those standing filled the seats set out on the grass.

The tangi for Rotorua's man with "a golden sax" had begun.

The father of 10, grandfather of 34, and great-grandfather of 31 died at home yesterday, from illness, at 84.

The self-taught musician started a life of saxophone performances at 19.

He went on to play at Soundshell dances in the 60s, at the Lakehouse in the 70s and then six nights a week at his whānau-run cultural enterprise Mitai.

Mitai-Ngatai's talents also included yachting, carving, painting, hockey tennis and even line dancing.

He was awarded a Queen's Service Medal in 2015 for his services to Māori and the community.

Family spokesperson Lara Northcroft told the Rotorua Daily Post: "Mina will be remembered by his family as being a kind, humble, loving, fun and funny koro and dad."

His burial service will be on Sunday, June 24, at 11am.