The South has been rattled by the shock resignation of former prime minister and former Dipton resident Bill English.

Dipton Service Centre manager Gail Jukes said many in the community were surprised by his resignation, but understood his decision.

"You can only do that job for so long before it starts to wear on you."

Mrs Jukes said she was sad Mr English was leaving politics because he always seemed to have the small community's interests at heart.

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"He was always only too willing to come back for anything that was needed here, or to open anything special.

"He was ...bred here, so he gave Dipton a real claim to fame."

Mr English was a well-respected member of the community and many were eager to see if he would return to live there, she said.

"He used to call in here quite frequently. We were his local garage.

"I had a lot of time for him. He was a nice guy; he was very, very polite and courteous.

"He was lovely. I'd like to think he will come back and live here."

Dipton Engineering Ltd employee Tony Wilson was also shocked at Mr English's exit from politics.

"I'm quite surprised. I thought he would have been around for a lot longer yet.

"It's the end of an era in New Zealand politics. He's been around for as long as I can remember."

Mr English has been a National MP for 27 years, during which time he has been prime minister, deputy prime minister, finance minister and opposition leader.

Dipton School principal Richie Crean believed Mr English's departure would change the dynamics of the National Party, and possibly the face of politics in New Zealand.

"He was always regarded as being steady, stable and a calming influence.

"Politics is changing, especially in the United States. It's driven by spokespeople who are highly marketable media darlings.

"Traditionally, politicians weren't marketable media darlings. It's a different game."

Mr Crean said Mr English visited the school on several occasions and liked to share his passion for politics with senior pupils.

He believed the visits may have inspired some of his pupils to join the next generation of politicians.

"He was very good with the kids. He has a good, dry sense of humour that people still relate to here."

Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks said people from across the political spectrum would see the value Mr English brought to New Zealand politics.

"In the early days, Bill and I started on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but I've certainly learned to value his opinion and his ability.

"Not only in this area, but nationally, Bill deserves gratitude for the value and the service he has given over the years. It's been extensive.

"Personally, I have found real value in the approach Bill took to social investment - investing early in social issues rather than waiting for problems to come up.

"He started that conversation, and while it wasn't popular in all circles, it is a conversation that we need to be having. That will certainly be part of his legacy."

Mr Hicks believed Mr English's departure would leave a void in New Zealand politics.

"The knowledge and experience that someone like Bill brings is invaluable.

"And while youth and enthusiasm and new ideas are absolutely vital to make a vibrant society, tempering that with experience of age is important, and he brought that.

"I'm sad to see him move on from the political scene, but I'm sure he will reappear somewhere. It will just be interesting to see where."

Federated Farmers Otago president Phill Hunt said Mr English was well liked by farmers.

"He was from farming stock and he understood what was happening on the land, but he was more than that to all of us.

"Bill has made a huge contribution to New Zealand society, and whether you agree with him or not, he has given brilliant public service and should be recognised for that."