He died on December 30 while diving for crayfish at Te Kaha on the East Coast. His tangi was held on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the Laws family, Pouroto Ngaropo, said the academic was known as a hunter-gatherer by those close to him. He loved fishing, hunting, cultivating food and diving.
“He was an experienced diver and we are grateful knowing he died doing something he loved,” Mr Ngaropo said.
Mr Laws, wife Karina and their three daughters were holidaying at Te Kaha between Christmas and New Year, staying at the home of Ngati Awa identity Sir Wira Gardiner.
Mr Ngaropo said 800 people went to the house to pay their respects.
His tangihanga at Iramoko Marae, Matata, saw at least 4000 people turn up to say farewell.
“Although born and bred in Kawerau and Matata, Mr Laws gained a PhD in information science from the University of Otago, a place where he also lectured for many years.”
He also spent time lecturing in Hawaii.
He had a long association with Touch New Zealand as a referee, gaining a black badge qualification and refereeing at the 1995 World Cup in Hawaii.
For the past six years, Mr Laws had been at Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi and was the founding head for the computer information science and technology faculty at the wananga in 2004.
His vision was to develop programs and support systems for staff and students around information communication technology.
A spokesperson for the wananga said all of Mr Laws’ plans had come to fruition in 2009 with the establishment of the Tokorau Indigenous Innovation Institute.
Mr Laws also sat on many of the management, academic, research, ethics and policy committees, while lecturing and supervising graduate research students.
“Karina has been humbled by all the people who came from near and far to say goodbye to her husband,” Mr Ngaropo said. “She had no idea how many hearts he had touched and says she has learned a lot more about him since his death.”