Kiwi artist Cliff Whiting has died, aged 81.

He was a long-serving member of the Order of New Zealand - appointed in 1998 - and his death means the list drops down to 18 members.

It can only have a maximum of 20 living members at any time.

Executive Director of the Arts Foundation, Simon Bowden, told the Herald Whiting was one of the recipients of the foundation's Icon Awards in 2013, alongside artist and writer Jacqueline Fahey, film director Geoff Murphy, opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and architect Ian Athfield.

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"It represents exceptional achievers. He's one of New Zealand's finest artists, his work had an affect on New Zealand artists and Kiwis of all ages.

"Many would have seen his work in Te Papa or the National Library."

Whiting was the master carver behind Te Papa's contemporary marae. He was also the museum's first kaihautu (leader).

His work can be seen in places like the Christchurch High Court, the National Archives, and Te Papa.

He was a former Department of Education art adviser, a lecturer in Maori art at Palmerston North Teacher's College, and involved in the introduction of Maori art in schools.

On the Order of NZ, Whiting was joined by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Helen Clark and Sir Bob Charles.