Te reo Māori educator and "dedicated leader of her people" Esther Tinirau (Ngāti Ruaka) has died.
In recent years Tinirau, who was diagnosed with stage-four bowel cancer in 2016, has been a staunch advocate of widespread bowel cancer testing.
Te Pāti Māori acknowledged her passing "with great sadness".
"A dedicated leader of her people, Esther was a te reo Māori educator and a senior manager within iwi and the Ministry of Education," the party said.
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Before she fell ill in 2016, Tinirau was about to begin a new role as national director of Te Kōhanga Reo Trust.
"I had a very personal relationship with Esther - we were both CEO of South Taranaki iwi at a time when we were pushing to work collectively to set up the Iwi Fishing Collective (ICP), hence why we called each other mermaid," Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said.
"As a peer Esther was hugely intelligent and brought her academic life at Massey under Tā Mason Durie to the board table, ensuring first principles as tangata whenua were always upheld. She challenged me on many fronts to look for our solutions.
"As a tuahine we spoke often of our whānau, her passion for her Awa and Kāhui Maunga, for Rānana and Tūmanako, she had a beautiful karanga that rose and gathered us, a rangi so old it's going to be sorely missed when the Awa gathers.
"In typical Esther style when she got sick she became a staunch advocate and campaigner alongside Bowel Cancer NZ for immediately lowering the bowel screening age for Māori to 50. Last election Te Pāti Māori adopted this policy, which was due to the courage and advocacy of people like Esther who shared their experiences. We will continue to fight to lower the screening age for as long as it takes.
"Our aroha is with the whānau pani, Mike, Kahurangi, Rawiri, her mokopuna, Ngāti Ruaka and the iwi of Whanganui at this devastating time. E te tuahine, e Esther, e kore e mimiti te aroha mōu. Moe mai rā e te rangatira."
Esther Tinirau is lying in state at Te Ao Hou Marae, Aramoho, and a service will be held at 10am on Sunday, July 25. She will be interred at Rānana.