Former New Zealand prime minister Mike Moore passed away early this morning aged 71.

Moore was at his home in Auckland when he died, his wife Yvonne said.

Moore, who was the country's 34th prime minister, suffered a stroke in 2015 when he was New Zealand's ambassador in Washington DC and had been in declining health in recent years.

Mrs Moore said her husband had numerous health issues since his stroke.

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"Mike was born in Whakatane but grew up in Kawakawa and Moerewa in the Far North and wanted to spend his final months in the place that gave him his drive, spirit and courage," she said.

Mike Moore became the prime minister for 59 days before the October 1990 general election. Photo / NZ Herald
Mike Moore became the prime minister for 59 days before the October 1990 general election. Photo / NZ Herald

"Mike wanted to be in Northland one last time so he spent much of summer in Matauri Bay and only came back to Auckland in recent weeks because of his health.

"Northland made him the battler and fighter for ordinary Kiwis he was throughout his life and career, and that was what drove him to become a member of the New Zealand Labour Party at 16 years old. He was stubborn, optimistic, generous and kind."

Mike Moore became the prime minister for 59 days before the October 1990 general election.

Following Labour's defeat in that election, Moore served as Leader of the Opposition until the 1993 election, after which Helen Clark successfully challenged him for the Labour Party leadership.

Mike Moore was a member of the "fish and chip brigade" made famous in a photograph by Herald photographer Geoff Dale of Labour plotters Roger Douglas, Mike Moore, Michael Bassett and David Lange, who brought down leader Bill Rowling in 1983.

David Lange, Michael Bassett, Roger Douglas and Mike Moore became known as the
David Lange, Michael Bassett, Roger Douglas and Mike Moore became known as the "Fish and Chip Brigade" after the above photo was published, 1980. Photo / Herald Archive

Following his retirement from New Zealand politics, Moore was the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation from 1999 to 2002. He has also held the post of New Zealand Ambassador to the United States from 2010 to 2015.

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Moore was first elected to the Auckland seat of Eden in 1972, the youngest MP at 23 years old.

Mike Moore is congratulated after delivering his valedictory speech in the House in 1999. Photo / NZ Herald
Mike Moore is congratulated after delivering his valedictory speech in the House in 1999. Photo / NZ Herald

He held the seat for one term and was defeated in the Rob Muldoon landslide victory in 1975. Soon after, he had the first of his three bouts of cancer.

In 1978 he was elected to the Christchurch seat of Papanui, defeating National Cabinet Minister Bert Walker. He held that seat, which later became Christchurch North and Waimakariri, until his retirement from Parliament in 1999.

In the fourth Labour Government from 1984 to 1990, Mike Moore held the portfolios of Overseas Trade & Marketing, Tourism, Sport & Recreation, America's Cup, External Relations & Trade, Deputy Finance, and Foreign Affairs.

Mrs Moore said her husband had an ability to connect with people from all walks of life.

"Having left school at 15 for a job in the freezing works, Mike always believed that his love of reading and hard work would overcome his lack of formal education.

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"Mike was always a good reminder to the Labour Party of its working class roots and will probably be its last blue collar Prime Minister.

Mike Moore became the prime minister for 59 days before the October 1990 general election. Photo / NZ Herald
Mike Moore became the prime minister for 59 days before the October 1990 general election. Photo / NZ Herald

"Mike was a passionate believer in the power of government to advance people through the collective provision of health and education and how that was the ladder up for ordinary working men and women and their families."

She said that in keeping with Labour's traditions he was a committed internationalist.

"As Trade Minister he helped give New Zealand a confident outward view of itself in the world. He also came to believe in the power of a rules based global trading system and how that, more than international aid, could lift nations out of poverty. He was a great humanist and a passionate free trader.

Moore loved Parliament, she said.

Mike Moore with former prime minister David Lange in 1987. Photo / Herald Archive
Mike Moore with former prime minister David Lange in 1987. Photo / Herald Archive

"He enjoyed being a representative Parliamentarian, doing electorate clinics at the weekends, and during the week debating issues and legislation in the House. It was in the debating chamber that he felt at home most because he knew his humour, quick wit and well-read knowledge would set him apart from many others."

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In recent years one of his greatest fears was that he'd die before seeing another Labour Government.

"He was elated when Jacinda Ardern became Prime Minister and thinks she's extraordinarily gifted and has the potential to achieve more for New Zealand and on the international stage than any other Labour leader."

Ardern saw Moore on Friday.

"He never lost his interest and passion for politics, because he saw it as such an important vehicle for change.

"While Mike made his mark is many ways, one of his enduring legacies to New Zealand is the work he did opening up world trade and gaining access for New Zealand exporters to new markets. That was a legacy he also left for the world.

"The world lost a man with a huge intellect, and huge heart today.

"My condolences go to Mike's wife Yvonne and his family," Ardern said.

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Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters described Moore as "one of the great New Zealanders".

"From the time he was elected to Parliament at the age of 23, to his final year on this earth, he was constantly thinking about how to advance New Zealand's interests," Peters said.

"Mike will be very sorely missed by everyone who knew him. He was a warm, passionate, funny, mischievous man, and my condolences go out to his wife Yvonne and the rest of his family.

"Many New Zealanders will have fond memories of his political career – whether his championing of lamb burgers, his witty turn of phrase, his restless energy, or his passion for helping New Zealanders of all walks of life."

Former Labour MP Dover Samuels said Mike Moore was a kauri in the eyes of Maoridom and especially in the eyes of Ngapuhi due to his links with Northland.

Samuels, who owns a property at Matauri Bay where Moore spent much of last days, said he did not see a lot of him but his son Reece took his new baby to "Uncle Mike".