Thousands of people have attended a memorial service and barbecue at an Auckland sports stadium to celebrate the life of former New Zealand prime minister David Lange. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said all people who had met him, even those who had crossed swords with him, acknowledged Lange was “an extraordinary man”.
Mr Lange has been lauded as the architect of New Zealand’s 20-year-old nuclear-free policy and a bold reformer who transformed the South Pacific nation’s economy.
“His vision saw our small country stand up for big ideas and values critical for the survival of humankind,” Prime Minister Clark told the audience of more than 2,000.
Other speakers at the service at the Ericsson Stadium, praised his sense of humour, which he retained up until his death last Saturday from renal failure at age 63.
Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary told the crowd Mr Lange had inspired him to give “strong support for New Zealand remaining nuclear free”, a comment that sparked prolonged applause.
The commemoration, with singing, laughter, speeches and a sausage sizzle, followed a private funeral earlier in the week.
In a moving tribute, Mr Lange’s eldest son, Roy, told the audience that “in a world flooded with tears of hate and despair … we know why God put you here”.
In a written message, Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright said Mr Lange had once told her that he was “a mere flyspeck” in history but she disagreed, saying New Zealand was in his debt for all he did for the country.
I can’t think of any Australian leader who would attract such love and respect.