Mike Moore, former New Zealand Prime Minister, dies aged 71

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Mike Moore died early Sunday morning aged 71.

NZ's 34th Prime Minister passed away in his home in Auckland, his wife Yvonne said in a statement.

Moore's later years were plagued by health issues. He had a stroke in 2015, while serving as New Zealand's ambassador in Washington DC. 

Yvonne said Mike spent most of his final months in the Far North where he grew up - but returned to Auckland recently because of his ailing health. 

She said he was stubborn and optimistic but generous.

"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."

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said on Twitter that Moore always showed kindness and offered support.

"I mourn the passing of Mike Moore and my heart goes out to Yvonne and his family," Robertson wrote. "He was a fiercely proud Kiwi who represented us with distinction on the world stage. Rest easy now Mike."

When he was first elected to the Auckland seat of Eden in 1973, Moore became New Zealand's youngest member of Parliament at 23-years-old.

Current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Moore "never lost his interest and passion for politics".

"I feel incredibly lucky to have seen Mike only on Friday," she said in a statement.

"While Mike made his mark in 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."