Latest updates: NZ mourns Sir Edmund

18:15 British High Commissioner in Wellington George Fergusson says: "Sir Edmund Hillary was the quintessential hero to people in Britain as well as New Zealand, of my generation and since.

"The determination and skill which propelled him to fame both in the Himalayas and Antarctica, were perhaps outweighed in the end by the qualities of modesty and integrity, which many around the world see in New Zealanders more generally."

Australian adventurer and philanthropist Dick Smith says: "To me he was the greatest adventurer of the 20th Century ... Where Ed is different is that his whole life was completely devoted to the people of the Himalayas. He was the bloke who inspired us all."

Australia's top high altitude mountaineer Andrew Lock says: "It was ground-breaking stuff, trying to find out if the human body could even survive those altitudes in those days. He was just the sort of climber that all other climbers looked up to as the absolute pinnacle of appropriate and ethical climbing."

Federated Farmers Bees chairman John Hartnell says: "Beekeepers have always been proud to count Sir Edmund Hillary as one of their own."

Bhoomi Lama of the Nepal Mountaineering Association in Kathmandu says: "He was a hero and a leader for us. He did a lot for the people of the Everest region and will always remain in our hearts."

Federated Mountain Clubs president Brian Stephensonsays : "Sir Edmund took New Zealand mountaineering to the world, then followed with an extraordinary range of other achievements, which took New Zealand itself to the world.

"In every field he excelled, whether as a benefactor, Sherpa builder, or as New Zealand's High Commissioner to India, throughout his distinguished life he remained modest and approachable."

15:45 Mark Sainsbury makes a statement on behalf of the family. He confirms they have taken up offer of a state funeral.

Several family members including Sir Edmund's son Peter are overseas so a date for the funeral had not been set, he says.

15:43 Former prime minister Mike Moore says Sir Edmund's death leaves "an irreplaceable hole in the heart of New Zealanders".

"Sir Ed did more than climb Everest, he leveraged that achievement to do much good for others...

"He was an Everest-type figure, he has no equals, all others are molehills."

15:40 NZ First leader Winston Peters says Sir Edmund was "without peer in New Zealand in his iconic status".

"In many ways he literally put New Zealand on the international map, but rather than rest on his laurels following his great achievements he led a life of humble excellence and even greater service.

"He was a role model for his and every generation since."

15:07 New Zealand First leader Winston Peters today joined with others in expressing his condolences to Lady Hillary and Hillary family.

NZ First leader Winston Peters says Sir Edmund was "without peer in New Zealand in his iconic status".

"In many ways he literally put New Zealand on the international map, but rather than rest on his laurels following his great achievements he led a life of humble excellence and even greater service.

"He was a role model for his and every generation since."

15:05 United Future leader Peter Dunne says Sir Edmund was an "inspiration to generations".

"With his life and achievements, he lived the life of two men, not just one.

"He was a humble man and perhaps that's what made him such an iconic New Zealander - not just his momentous feats, but the humility with which he carried himself.

"In many ways Sir Ed was the quintessential Kiwi. His values - quiet determination, courage, persistence, and humility - have become the Kiwi values we all embrace."

15:00 The NZ Antarctic Society describes Sir Edmund's death as "a time of huge sadness and the closing of a heroic era in New Zealand exploration."

President Norm McPherson says: "The Society hails the magnificent contribution of its longstanding patron to our country and the world."

"Sir Ed launched that wonderful half-century with his leadership of the New Zealand party during 1957-58 which saw the building of Scott Base and his historic journey by tractor to the South Pole."

"We will all share the loss of a man of great courage, iron will and quiet strength of character."

14:55 Auckland Regional Council chairman Michael Lee says: "Sir Ed was a true Aucklander who became one of the greatest New Zealanders and a figure of world renown and respect.

"Sir Ed embodied the national traits that, through his mountaineering and exploration achievements, New Zealanders are most proud of: determination, fortitude, bravery, intelligence and modesty.

"We also recall with thanks his years of public service for New Zealand and the Auckland region, and also to the people of Nepal&

"He gave a feeling of national pride to each and every one of us. Edmund Hillary was a truly great man and will occupy one of the very highest places in the pantheon of New Zealand's national heroes.

14:54 The NZ Alpine Club says it has lost its most inspirational figure.

Club President Phil Doole says: "Ed Hillary wasn't just a once in a lifetime figure, he was a once in history figure.

"By definition no-one else was able to repeat his first ascent of the world's highest mountain, yet that achievement pales into insignificance compared to his humanitarian achievements, his values and his determined expression of them.

"In the face of increasing commercialism in just about all walks of life, Ed insisted that there were better motives and better ways with better outcomes and he lived his own life that way&

"Sir Ed personified the spirit of the New Zealand Alpine Club as a club for those who want to climb simply for the sake of it, for the challenge, the self-reliance and a simple appreciation of wild places."

14:21 Sparc (Sport and Recreation NZ) chairman John Wells says Sir Edmund's death is a reminder of what people can accomplish with determination and enthusiasm.

"Sir Edmund Hillary's life and achievements have inspired generations of Kiwis to explore the great outdoors and to treat our environment with the utmost respect&

"Sir Ed's worldwide reputation as a legendary adventurer is exceeded only by his genuine humility and his devotion to helping others."

14:10 Sir Edmund's step-daughter says his death was sudden.

She says he had been due to leave hospital today.

"He was in high spirits."

14:05 Documentary maker Tom Scott arrives at the Hillarys' Remuera Road house and confirms there will be a state funeral.

He says he had been working with Sir Edmund on a documentary about the mountaineer's work in Nepal and the resulting footage will be shown on the night of the funeral.

"We knew when we were making it that was the purpose of it and we were terribly sad.

"Everywhere we went there was this kind of cloud hanging over us because we knew we were making it to be played on the night he was buried - on the state funeral.

"But at the same time it was a tremendous honour and a privilege to be asked to make it.

"He's a great New Zealander.

"We will not see his like, the old cliche, for a long, long time.

"He was an extraordinary man."

14:00 Government flags are lowered to half-mast.

13:55 Acting Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says Sir Edmund was a giant of New Zealand.

She tells Sky News: "Sir Edmund's name is synonymous with adventure, with achievement, with dreaming and then making those dreams come true&

"For generations to come, people will study what Sir Edmund achieved by being, of course, the first to get to the top of the world and to successfully conquer Everest."

13:45 Governor-General Anand Satyanand says Sir Edmund's death is a great loss to his family and to all New Zealanders.

"Sir Edmund was a great New Zealander and his passing will be deeply mourned by people throughout the world. As Governor-General of New Zealand and on behalf of all New Zealanders, I extend my deepest condolences and those of my wife Susan, to Lady Hillary and Sir Edmund's family on their great loss."

13:41 Acting Prime Minister Michael Cullen says Sir Edmund had been particularly ill in recent weeks.

"I think Sir Edmund had thought the end was approaching for him," he tells TV One.

"Yes we should grieve, but I think we should also celebrate that life that Sir Edmund had, and recognise he was a truly great man and a truly great New Zealander."

13:35 Mountaineer Mark Inglis, who conquered Everest despite previously losing both his legs to frostbite, says Sir Edmund was an inspiration.

"The inspiration he has been to so many people - not just Kiwis, not just young mountaineers like I was when I was growing up - but it's everything he's done since then."

Mr Inglis says the impact of the news in Nepal will be devastating.

"When you go into little shops in Kathmandu, when you go into little tea houses right up through the Kumbher, right through Nepal - they will have a photo of the King and right beside it, they will have a photo of Sir Ed. In people's houses, they will have a photo of Sir Ed and that really opens your eyes to the esteem in which they hold him."

He says Sir Edmund's approach to the local people was not "you need" but "what do you need?".

"He listened to the people and that's the biggest difference.

"Sir Ed is the nearest thing we have to royalty and I think the country will react in a similar way."

13:31 Green leader Jeanette Fitsimons says Sir Edmund embodied the spirit of New Zealand.

"I, like so many other New Zealanders, looked up to him as an inspiration. He embodied the things that we are proud of. He was not just a great mountaineer, he gave back so much to the people of Nepal with his work in education and health, and he ably represented New Zealand to the rest of the world.

"He also embodied the spirit of Kiwi ingenuity. It was his idea to save a monastery from falling down a cliff with meshed number eight fencing wire instead of concrete and steel. Unlike the engineers, he understood that all the materials had to be carried in on the backs of sherpas."

13:25 Dr Pita Sharples, co-leader of the Maori Party, says Sir Edmund's passing will be marked with enormous sadness throughout New Zealand.

"When we think of Sir Ed, we have the utmost respect for someone who truly represents the categories of hero, leader, champion - our own homegrown superman.

"Yet despite having conquered the highest mountain on earth, Sir Ed has always inspired respect through his consistent kindness and humility&

"His distinctive leadership, his unique vision, his driving determination to succeed has been an enormous source of motivation to this nation - and indeed the world&.

"When we think of Sir Ed, a well loved whakatauaki will always come to mind:

Whaia e koe ki te iti kahurangi, ki te tuohu koe, me maunga teitei
(Seek the treasures you hold most dearly, if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.)

13:33 New Zealand-born Premier of South Australia Mike Rann says Sir Edmund was "fame and epic journey and honour and grit and valour".

"Sir Edmund's achievement was one of the defining moments of the twentieth century, along with Neil Armstrong walking on the moon&

"It has been said that when high winds hit the Himalayas, the world itself trembles. Sir Edmund's conquest of their mightiest peak, and his deeds thereafter have likewise buffeted the hearts of humankind.

"He spread the ethic of honourable effort and merciful ingenuity across the planet in the cruellest century it has known. He stirred our hearts and by his lifelong strivings  upward, ever upward  helped make this a better world."

13:22 Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws today says all official flags in the city will fly at half-mast today and tomorrow as well as on the day of Sir Edmund's funeral.

"Wanganui people will remember Sir Ed as not simply a world famous mountaineer but an active humanitarian. He was a revered figure of both outstanding accomplishment and outright humility."

"In a world that overuses the word 'legend', Sir Edmund truly was. He was not only an iconic figure, but a person who contributed much to New Zealand's sense of independence and nationhood".

"If anything, his accomplishments in lifting the living standards of the Nepalese people rate higher on the human scale than scaling Mt Everest. It is unlikely that any Kiwi has ever had such a positive effect upon both our nation and another."

13:20 ACT leader Rodney Hide says Sir Edmund was a perfect example of the country's "indomitable spirit".

12:58 Antarctica New Zealand chief executive Lou Sanson says the New Zealand flag is flying at half-mast at Scott Base to mark Sir Edmund's passing.

He says there is a "very subdued" atmosphere on the base Sir Edmund started 51 years ago.

12:47pm Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard says Sir Edmund's special character was demonstrated in the fact that he was the only living New Zealander to have been chosen to feature on a New Zealand banknote - the $5 note.

"We will all feel the loss of a truly remarkable man whose achievements and humility have inspired New Zealanders for so long," he says.

12:46 It's announced that New Zealand's cricket team will wear black arm bands and observe a minute's silence to honour Sir Edmund before play starts on day one of the second test against Bangladesh at the Basin Reserve in Wellington tomorrow.

12:32 National Party leader John Key says Sir Edmund Hillary was a New Zealand hero.

"Sir Edmund was a role model for all New Zealanders. His legendary story as both a humanitarian and adventurer has been, and will continue to be, inspirational to generations.

"I offer the National Party's condolences to Sir Edmund's family and friends. I'm sure all New Zealanders will feel the loss of his passing."

12:25 Sir Edmund's friend and fellow mountaineer Graeme Dingle says New Zealand has never before lost someone who epitomises the nation's psyche.

"He was a great human mirror of who we are, or who we like to think we are.

"That's why the nation chose him. We naturally position our character so we're relatively taciturn, we're not inclined to brag, we've got a good sense of humour and we're tough."

12:20 Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton issues a statement saying Sir Edmund was notable for far more than climbing Mt Everest.

"What made him a great New Zealander was his refusal to rest on his laurels as he might easily have done. Instead, he saw a need on the part of the sherpa mountain people of Nepal and devoted his long life to doing something practical about it."

Jim Anderton says that in doing that, he not only caught the spirit of what is the best in the New Zealand national character, he underlined it in his own modest response at the time to climbing the world's highest mountain.

"Asked for his personal reaction to his achievement, he said: 'We knocked the bastard off' when he might very reasonably have claimed the credit for himself and turned that into a career.

"All his life Ed knew that things got achieved by everybody pulling together as a community. It's his profiling of that in his own life that makes him a great New Zealander among his own people."

12:05 Auckland Mayor John Banks pays tribute: "Sir Edmund Hillary's outstanding contribution to New Zealand will be remembered and greatly admired forever.

"Sir Edmund Hillary was made a distinguished citizen of Auckland city in 2003 and he will be sadly missed as a truly inspiring role model for everything good about New Zealand.

"Our sincere condolences go to Lady Hillary and their family at this sad time."

11:30 Prime Minister Helen Clark issues a press release announcing Sir Edmund's death.

She describes the mountaineer and philanthropist as "the best-known New Zealander to have ever lived" and a "quintessential Kiwi".

O9:00 Sir Edmund Hillary - the first man to scale Mt Everest - dies at Auckland City Hospital.

- With NZPA

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