Labour Party pays tribute after former MP Jonathan Hunt dies aged 85

Jonathan Hunt (L), with Andris Argalis (R), Latvia's Parliament vice speaker, in 2004.
Jonathan Hunt (L), with Andris Argalis (R), Latvia's Parliament vice speaker, in 2004. Photo credit: RNZ / AFP.

The Labour Party is mourning the death of one if its longest serving MPs, Jonathan Hunt, who has died aged 85.

Entering Parliament in 1966, Hunt was an MP for 39 years, 30 of which were as MP for New Lynn.

Becoming a minister in the David Lange government, he held roles as Minister of Housing, Tourism, and Broadcasting, as well as the Postmaster-General role.

Hunt was appointed Speaker of the House in 1999 by the Helen Clark government.

After leaving Parliament in 2005, he went on to serve as the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom for three years.

He was also famously nicknamed the Minister of Wine and Cheese, and was appointed as a member of the Order of New Zealand in 2005.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said Hunt was a true Parliamentarian and Labour stalwart.

"His contribution... represents a lifetime of public service at the highest level," Hipkins said.

"Jonathan was legendary for his warmth and hospitality and had a deep love of cricket. He was always generous with his time to young people with an interest in politics and was very supportive of new MPs, even after he left Parliament."

Hipkins said as Speaker for six years of the MMP era, "he set the benchmark for the way Parliament is run today".

Labour said the piece of work Hunt was most proud of was the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985, which made changes to enable adults to find out who their birth parents were, and for birth mothers to find out about their adult adoptees.

In a statement, the party said as broadcasting minister, Hunt oversaw the modernisation of the sector and approved the original license for TV3.