Prime Minister John Key has paid tribute to former North Shore MP and Mayor George Gair, who has died aged 88.

Mr Gair served for 24 years as MP for North Shore from 1966 to 1990 and held senior posts in National Governments including Health, Transport, Energy, Housing and Rail.

He was also National's deputy leader.

Mr Key said he was saddened to hear of Mr Gair's death.

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"George made a significant contribution to the National Party, to Parliament and to the community. He was well-known for his competent and well-mannered approach and was highly regarded by his colleagues."

In the late 1970s, Mr Gair opposed measures by his own party to restrict abortion, which was a divisive part of a Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Bill.

A royal commission recommended a panel be established to approve any abortion, but Mr Gair objected, saying that would intimidate already-distressed women, and a compromise position was eventually reached.

Married to his wife, Fay, for 64 years, Mr Gair had three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

He was New Zealand's High Commissioner in London from 1991 to 1994, and was Mayor of North Shore City from 1995 to 1998.

Mr Gair was a Companion of the Queen's Service Order for his dedication to public services and was a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George.

He decided to further his study in 2006 after being encouraged by a former political colleague, AUT Professor Marilyn Waring.

He was accepted in mid-2007, but his study had to be postponed while he had heart surgery. He graduated in 2010 with a master's.

Mr Gair died on Monday, and a service will be held on Friday, September 4.