Tributes have flowed from across the political divide for former National Cabinet minister and Pahiatua MP John Falloon, who has died aged 63.

Mr Falloon had been ill for several weeks after undergoing surgery in Wellington Hospital for a brain tumour.

He returned to the family home at Bideford, near Masterton, late last month having added his vote for the National Party's revival in the general election.

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger said he had been shocked when he first learned that Mr Falloon had a brain tumour and had visited him in hospital after his operation.

Mr Bolger said Mr Falloon, who was a minister in his Cabinet, had cared for and had a great interest in people. He had an empathy for Maori.

"John was a great friend and colleague and what I'd describe as a caring conservative. He loved the land ... he liked to conserve the land."

As a Cabinet minister, he had passionately pursued trade liberalisation and an end to farm subsidies.

National leader Don Brash said he saw Mr Falloon only a month ago, while on the campaign trail in the Wairarapa.

He appeared in good health and Dr Brash said he was "stunned" to learn only a few days later that Mr Falloon needed a brain operation.

Tributes also came from Mr Falloon's political opponents.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said she had known Mr Falloon from the time she entered Parliament in 1981.

"John Falloon was an unfailingly courteous Member of Parliament who enjoyed good relationships with his parliamentary opponents," she said.

"To me he was always a decent, public-spirited and well-motivated human being, who worked hard for his community and constituents."

Caretaker Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said Mr Falloon was an honourable man with unselfish conservative values and a strong love of the land.

He knew Mr Falloon through Federated Farmers before either of them entered politics and their views on many issues crossed the political divide.

"To the end he would occasionally drop into my ministerial office to chat with whoever was around and keep up with broader agricultural issues," he said.

At Bideford, Mr Falloon was known as a neighbour who would stop at nothing to help anyone in the district. One of his last acts before falling ill was to help plant a kowhai tree in memory of Linda Warrington - a rural postie and neighbour - who drowned in last year's floods.

Mr Falloon often championed the lot of women, saying that the country's economy should be geared in such a way that young mothers should not be forced to go out to work.

He described country women as the "unsung heroes of the back blocks".

When his wife fell seriously ill Mr Falloon sought time away from Parliament to be at her hospital bedside and to help nurse her back to health.

He was suddenly taken ill last month.

He complained of a headache, and the tumour was diagnosed.

John Falloon

MP 1977 to 1996.

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Statistics, Racing, Minister in charge of the Inland Revenue Department, Minister in charge of Friendly Societies, and Associate Minister of Finance during that time.