Sir Brian Talboys, who was deputy prime minister for the first two terms of Robert Muldoon's government, has died at the age of 90.
Sir Brian, who died in Invercargill on Sunday, was a National Party MP from 1957 to 1981 and deputy prime minister from 1975 to 1981.
His ministerial portfolios included agriculture, science, foreign affairs and trade.
He would have become prime minister if the so-called "Colonel's Coup" to depose Muldoon in 1980 had been successful. But Sir Brian refused to actively challenge the combative prime minister, believing open rebellion would damage the party.
Prime Minister John Key, in a statement from London, described Sir Brian as a "gracious and articulate politician who was always looking for solutions.
"He represented the best of the pragmatic tradition of the National Party," Mr Key said.
"He had a truly international view of New Zealand's place in the world and was a strong advocate of our trade interests in a time of profound change."
Sir Brian was heavily involved in the creation of Closer Economic Relations with Australia and represented New Zealand's interests when the UK joined the European common market.
He will be remembered for his wide and distinguished contribution to New Zealand politics, Mr Key says.
Labour leader David Shearer also paid tribute to the "dedicated politician".
"He served his country with distinction and we thank him for his contribution," he said.
Born in Whanganui, Sir Brian served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force in World War II. After the war he became a farmer in Southland.He became a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1982 for service to Australia-New Zealand relations and he was knighted in 1991 for public services.
Would you intervene in a life-threatening crisis?Vote
Copyright © 2013 Yahoo! New Zealand
All rights reserved.
Select your region to see news and weather for your area.