Sir Douglas Myers remained focused on how to improve the wellbeing of New Zealand during his battle with cancer, former Reserve Bank Governor and National Party leader Don Brash said.

The long-time chief executive of Lion Breweries, business advocate and philanthropist Sir Douglas died in a London hospital on Saturday, aged 78, after a long battle with cancer.

Brash had known Sir Douglas since the 1970s, when they both returned from living overseas.

"Both of us were frustrated of where New Zealand was at. You'll remember that this was the era where things were under very tight controls and having to get a Reserve Bank permit to do anything involving foreign exchange.

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"And we'd used to meet on a regular basis with John Fernyhough, [who was] a prominent corporate director who has now passed away as well. The three of us met in Douglas' office and lament the situation and wonder what we can do about it.

"I go back a long way with Sir Douglas".

While their career paths took different tracks, Brash came into contact regularly with Sir Douglas when he was chairman of the Business Roundtable.

"What impressed me at the time, along with most other members of the Roundtable, in fact, they were promoting policies which they thought would be good for New Zealand, even if they were contrary to their own short-term corporate interests and Sir Douglas was definitely a man like that, he badly wanted New Zealand to do better and that characterised his position throughout this life," he said.

Sir Douglas was still focused on how to improve the well-being of the country during his battle with cancer and Brash last saw him at a conference on improving New Zealand's savings regime last year.

Don Brash said Sir Douglas Myers was concerned about New Zealand doing better right through his life. Photo / Greg Bowker
Don Brash said Sir Douglas Myers was concerned about New Zealand doing better right through his life. Photo / Greg Bowker

"That was the last time I met him face-to-face but we have exchanged emails since that time. The last one was probably about a month ago."

Asked what he most admired about Sir Douglas, Brash said:

"He was right through this life concerned about New Zealand doing better and doing better in every respect not only economic growth but the whole race relations area,"

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"He was conscious we were doing much less well than we should do as country".

Sir Douglas owned a farm in Northland and Brash said he was deeply concerned about unemployment and social problems in that region.

While a funeral service would likely be held in London, Brash hoped a memorial would also be held in New Zealand.

Sir Douglas was awarded a CBE in 1991 for his services to business management and was knighted in 2010. He is survived by wife, Barbara, and children Jessica, Laura and Campbell.