2 Feb 2020

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Mike Moore dies aged 71

11:24 am on 2 February 2020

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Mike Moore has died today, aged 71.

Mike Moore.

Mike Moore. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Moore was at his home in Auckland when he died, his wife Yvonne Moore said, according to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) this morning.

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.

His wife said her husband had numerous health issues since his stroke.

"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 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."

Jacinda Ardern responds

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sent her condolence to Moore's family, saying she'd seen him as recently as Friday.

"I feel incredibly lucky to have seen Mike only on Friday. He never lost his interest and passion for politics, because he saw it as such an important vehicle for change," she said in a statement.

"During Mike's long parliamentary career he held the positions of Prime Minister, deputy minister of finance, minister of external relations and trade, minister of tourism, sport and recreation, and he was minister of overseas trade and marketing.

"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.

"Through both his lead role in the GATT trade round and in his tenure as Director General of the World Trade Organisation, he dedicated his life to the service of New Zealand.

"A member of The Order of New Zealand and former Ambassador to the United States, Mike was passionate about our country and ensuring it's place in the modern world.

"The world lost a man with a huge intellect, and huge heart today. E te rangatira, moe mai, moe mai, moe mai ra."

She was joined by Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters in sharing her condolences.

"Mike was the rare politician whose outlook was improved by his life in politics. Mike seriously grew in the job. He took to heart the idea that it was his job to learn more about the issues, and evolve his views over time. He never stopped learning, which is rare in politics," Peters said.

"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.

"By the time he left Parliament, Mike was a champion of the role that trade can play in lifting people out of poverty and improving living standards."

Peters lauded Moore as "one of the great New Zealanders".

Political career

First elected to the Auckland seat of Eden in 1972, Moore was New Zealand's youngest Member of Parliament at 23-years-old, according to the PMO statement.

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 and Trade, Deputy Finance, and Foreign Affairs.

He was the 11th Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party and, therefore, Prime Minister and later Leader of the Opposition, from 4 September 1990 until 1 December 1993.

Moore was the World Trade Organisation's third Director General, the highest international role ever held by a New Zealander, from 1999 to 2002 and oversaw China's entry into the global rules based trading system. He also launched the Doha Development Round in 2002.

He was appointed New Zealand Ambassador to the United States in 2010 and played a significant role in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and enhancing the relationship between the two countries.

His wife said he loved Parliament.

"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."