Ngati Pikiao and Te Arawa are mourning the death of former Te Arawa Maori Trust Board chair Arapeta Tahana.
Mr Tahana, who was in his 60s, had a heart attack at a Rotorua gym on Wednesday afternoon.
As well as playing a prominent tribal role in negotiations over compensation for the Rotorua lakes, Waatea News reports Mr Tahana was a former president of Mana Motuhake and a former chief executive of Waiariki Polytechnic.
Labour Maori Affairs spokesperson Parekura Horomia says his former Labour Department colleague was dedicated to improving the situation of Maori.
Mr Tahana will be taken to Tapuaeharuru marae on Lake Rotoiti on Thursday.