Tributes flow for former New Zealand Prime Minister Mike Moore

Tributes are flowing from past and present New Zealand politicians and the wider political community for former Labour Prime Minister Mike Moore.

Moore died at his Auckland home on Sunday morning after years of ill health, aged 71.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the world has lost a man with a big intellect and a huge heart.

"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," she said in a statement.

"I feel incredibly lucky to have seen Mike only on Friday."

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said he was "one of the great New Zealanders" and a rare politician whose outlook was improved by his life in politics.

He described him as being a warm, passionate, funny and mischievous man who spent every day of his life trying to make things better in New Zealand.

Minister of Finance 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."

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark also tweeted her condolences, and said Moore was a "passionate New Zealander" who "spent his life serving NZ and its values".

Moore's wife Yvonne believes he is one of the last working-class prime ministers New Zealand will ever have. A sentiment former Labour MP and United Future leader Peter Dunne agrees with.

"His instincts were always very much for the working man that was at the heart of the Labour Party's constituency," he told Newshub.

"He did all sorts of amazing things to prick more pompous people's balloons and bring them down to earth to remind them of the reality of whom they were serving."

Former National leader Don Brash is remembering Moore's role as the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) director-general from 1999 and 2002.

He said if anyone could have progressed that organisation, it was Moore.

"He was very much the kind of person who could do deals, slap backs, and I think it was very sad that his term as director-general of the WTO was cut short," he told Newshub.

Moore's position at the WTO was the highest international role ever held by a New Zealander.

He was appointed New Zealand ambassador to the United States in 2010, and held the position until 2015.

Current US ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown paid tribute, and said Moore lived a life full of service to his country, and the United States and New Zealand friendship is deeper and stronger because of him.

Political historian and former Labour Party MP Dr Michael Bassett worked with Moore for many years, and said he always had a lot of ideas.

"Two or three of his ideas would strike you as being slightly nutty, and then the fourth would have a real nugget of gold in it. That was why he was such a valued member of the team."

Moore managed to convert not only his Labour Party, but also National to the idea of free trade, he added.

Bassett said in the 1970s, about 75 percent of everything New Zealand exported went to Britain.

"By the time Mike Moore had finished, only about 6 or 7 percent of our trade went to Britain.

"It was going all over the world, and Mike played a very significant role in that widening of New Zealand's trade."

Former Labour Party president Mike Williams echoed this, and said Moore's greatest legacy was converting the two parties to the idea of free trade.

"That was his big achievement. And then of course he went on to be head of the World Trade Organisation and New Zealand's ambassador to Washington. So, he walked the talk," Williams told Newshub.

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

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

Moore was first elected to the Auckland seat of Eden in 1973. At the time he was New Zealand's youngest MP at 23-years-old.