​​Former Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton ​died peacefully at the weekend, prompting an outpouring of tributes for a man who so firmly held his principles that he walked out on his party during its turbulent Rogernomics years.​

His widow Carole said he died peacefully at the Cashmere View Hospital in Christchurch at the weekend. He was 79 - two weeks shy of his 80th birthday.

Tributes flowed from all sides of the political spectrum including from Bill English and former Prime Minister Jim Bolger, as well as from organisations including Habitat for Humanity Christchurch, the Council of Trade Unions, and Kiwibank chair Dr Susan Macken.

Many praised him as a voice for the marginalised, the one Labour MP who stood against Rogernomics, and a tireless worker who always stood up for his beliefs.

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Former colleagues remembered Anderton for his pivotal role in establishing Kiwibank, the NZ Superannuation Fund and paid parental leave, as well as his support for dumping First Past the Post for MMP and, more recently, for backing the rebuilding of Christ Church Cathedral.

"A man of huge integrity, huge compassion, a man who stood strongly for what he believed in," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday.

"He will be sadly, sadly missed by the Labour movement and by all his friends and family."

Anderton's public service began in 1965 when he was elected to Manukau City Council. He also served on Auckland city and regional councils before moving to Christchurch in 1983 and winning the seat of Sydenham for Labour in 1984.

Jim Anderton, who died at the weekend, age 79, pictured here at a ceremony to present him with the insignia of a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit last year. Photo / Supplied
Jim Anderton, who died at the weekend, age 79, pictured here at a ceremony to present him with the insignia of a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit last year. Photo / Supplied

But his opposition to Rogernomics and the sale of BNZ saw him leave the party and set up New Labour in 1989, and then the Alliance in 1991.

"I didn't leave the Labour Party. The Labour Party left me," Anderton famously said at the time.

Laila Harre, who followed him to New Labour and the Alliance, said Anderton's stance paved the way for the current Government.

"His courage in standing up in a very lonely way to Rogernomics from within the Labour Party was legendary. It's hard for those who weren't involved at that time to appreciate how intense the struggle was to reclaim the heart of the Labour Party and how lonely and isolated Jim was made to feel.

"His endurance through those years from building New Labour and then the Alliance and helping to transform the social democratic left ... is a huge legacy."

Former New Labour and Alliance president Matt McCarten said Anderton could have been Prime Minister.

"Like Winston, both of them were assumed to have eventually become the leader of their parties in due course, and if both of them had bit their tongues, they would have been the Prime Minister in due course. Conviction politicians. They put their careers on the line for what they believed in. That's very rare.

"Jim left the world better than how he found it, and New Zealanders and the political left owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

McCarten said there was no tougher politician than Anderton, who often worked 16 hour days, seven days a week, and whose famous stubbornness was an asset as much as it was a hindrance.

"We used to have a joke - the softest thing about Jim was his teeth."

He said Anderton was an invaluable backroom advocate of the push for 12 weeks' paid parental leave in 2002.

"Laila did a lot of the leg work but without Jim being pig-headed about it, it would never have happened. I would also say that without the Alliance and without Jim, MMP would never have happened."

And then there was Kiwibank, which was initially opposed by both Helen Clark and Michael Cullen.

"I was one of the sceptics," Clark told the Herald yesterday. "How do we know anyone will use this bank? But it was very important part of Jim's policy platform, and the truth was that the major banks had more or less exited so many smaller communities and suburbs.

"But there was still a post office, so putting Kiwibank into those facilities was a winner. It did incredibly well. I was wrong and he was right on that one."

She said Anderton was "incredibly hard-working, diligent, was able to relate to a very broad cross-section of New Zealanders, and was always a voice for the voiceless and the marginalised".

"He hated anybody suffering any sort of injustice at all. He would take up the cause of people who were not getting what they were entitled to. He felt very strongly about that."

Cullen said it would be a mistake to limit Anderton's legacy to Kiwibank, saying he had been a very effective minister across many portfolios including economic development and primary industries.

"Jim was also the co-author of the NZ Superannuation Fund. In 1999 the Alliance didn't entirely agree with it and he and I negotiated a compromised solution that was the foundation of the Superfund. He deserves more credit for that than he is given."

In his valedictory speech, Anderton reflected on his at times turbulent political career, saying that it "really is worth sticking up for what you believe".

On leaving the Labour Party in 1989, he said: ​"I have no regrets about any of that. Under the same circumstances I would do exactly the same again."

He founded the Progressive Party after New Zealand's involvement in Afghanistan split the Alliance Party, and continued to be a senior member of Clark's Cabinet until Labour lost the 2008 election.

The 2008 to 2011 term was his last, ending 27 years of holding the Sydenham and Wigram electorates.

Dame Annette King, who Anderton had selected as a candidate 34 years ago, said that he was a "guiding hand" to the Labour Party in those last years in Parliament.

"I believe in those years, he came home."

Last year Anderton was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Parliament.

A Requiem Mass will be held for Anderton at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 70 Spencer Street, Addington, Christchurch on Thursday at 2pm.

Interment will be held on Waiheke Island on Saturday - time to be confirmed.