'He turned his life around and then all of a sudden it was snatched from him'

A west Auckland homeless man who turned his life around through traditional wood carving has died suddenly in Waitakere Hospital.

Jason Raiwhara featured in a Newshub story last month about the 'Taniwha-Tales' carving programme run by Te Whanau O Waipareira Trust.

The west Auckland programme is described as a type of therapy for those who are homeless or mentally ill.

Forty-nine-year-old Mr Raiwhara came to the programme after living rough for two-and-a-half years. He slept in a tent in the bush in Henderson.

When interviewed by Newshub he described life on the streets as "the same routine day in day out" and said it drove him "nuts" as he was wandering without purpose.

Looking for that purpose he started showing up at the Taniwha-Tales carving programme and realised he had a talent.

Mr Raiwhara created exceptional pieces of work and even made some money through it after he sold some of the carvings. 

He also got off the streets and into a home.  

Around the time he was interviewed by Newshub in March, Mr Raiwhara was told he had terminal cancer and was given only six months to live.

He didn't discuss his health in the story.

Taniwha-Tales programme director Grant Wilson says Mr Raiwhara was trying to remain positive with the death sentence he'd been given and had come to the realisation there was nothing anyone could do to save him.

But Mr Raiwhara didn't even get six months. He died yesterday around six weeks after doctors told him he was dying.

Mr Wilson says he picked up Mr Raiwhara from his west Auckland home yesterday morning. 

"We were driving towards the carving centre when he started gagging as if he was going to vomit.  I pulled over to give him a minute to recover but then decided he needed to go to the hospital.

"We got him into the hospital at around 10.30am.  Around four hours later he was dead."

Mr Wilson says they were told Mr Raiwhara also had pneumonia.

"We're all devastated, we're walking around in shock. It still hasn't sunk in," he says.

Mr Wilson says Mr Raiwhara was one of the programme's biggest success stories.

"He was a beautiful carver, and he loved to share his knowledge. He had built up so much confidence since he came to us and his imagination was exceptional.  We were blown away by some of his pieces. He turned his life around and then all of a sudden it was snatched from him."

Several weeks ago Wilson had organised an auction of the carving works to raise money so that Raiwhara could visit family around the country and say his goodbyes.

The auction was set to take place tomorrow (Thursday 13 April) and Mr Wilson says it'll still go ahead.

The money raised will now go to Mr Raiwhara's whanau to help them with his funeral costs.

Carving auction for Jason Raiwhara

2pm - 4pm, Thursday 13 April

Corban Estate Arts Centre (Shed 1)

426 Great North Rd, Henderson, Auckland

Contact Grant Wilson on: 021-332-973 for extra information.