Key Points:

Prime Minister Helen Clark has paid tribute to Chief Ombudsman John Belgrave, who died last night after more than 40 years of public service. He was 67.

Mr Belgrave had been battling with cancer for some time.

Miss Clark said Mr Belgrave's appointment as Chief Ombudsman capped a public service career spanning four decades.

"He served in diplomatic posts in London, Melbourne, and Tokyo... in the 1960s and 1970s," Miss Clark said.

He was the head of customs, secretary of commerce, secretary of justice and Commerce Commission chairman.

In the private sector, Mr Belgrave headed the Bankers' Association and the Electricity Supply Association.

Mr Belgrave was appointed Chief Ombudsman in 2003.

Miss Clark said her thoughts were with Mr Belgrave's wife Judy and his family.

United Future leader Peter Dunne also expressed his sorrow at the death of Mr Belgrave.

"It was my pleasure and privilege to work with John when I was a minister in previous governments," Mr Dunne said.

"He was an outstanding administrator and one of New Zealand's great public servants who served his country well in a wide variety of roles for decades."

National leader John Key also praised Mr Belgrave.

"Mr Belgrave had an outstanding career and contributed much to New Zealand and the public service. I offer my condolences to Mr Belgrave's family and friends at this time," Mr Key said.

In the 2007 New Year's Honours list, Mr Belgrave was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.