August 13, 2005

NZ’s former PM Lange dies after renal failure

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Former New Zealand Prime Minister
David Lange died in hospital on Saturday after complications of
renal failure.

Lange, 63, a lawyer and pugnacious, witty former Methodist
lay preacher, spent five turbulent years as New Zealand's
Labour Party prime minister from 1984.

During his time in office, New Zealand underwent one of its
most radical economic restructurings and made its name on the
international stage for its anti-nuclear stance.

"It is with sadness that we announce the passing of the
Right Honorable David Lange," his family said in a statement
reported by the New Zealand Press Association. "Mr Lange died
from the complications of renal failure with his close family
by his side."

He died at 10 p.m. (1000 GMT) on Saturday. He had suffered
serious health problems since 1995 and was taken to hospital in
July where surgeons amputated his right leg below the knee
after a complication of diabetes.

In 2002, Lange was diagnosed with a rare incurable plasma
disorder, amyloidosis, which causes a build-up of excess
protein from bone marrow and damages the organs.

The Labour government Lange led inherited a country in deep
economic trouble after the long domination of conservative
National Party leader Sir Robert Muldoon.

Lange's government, including finance minister Roger
Douglas, architect of New Zealand's free market economy,
floated the New Zealand dollar, freed controls on interest
rates, banking and foreign exchange, and turned government
businesses into corporations.


Lange leapt quickly to international prominence when his
government banned all nuclear-powered ships and those carrying
nuclear weapons from New Zealand ports, enraging the United
States and leading to the country's suspension from the
regional security alliance with the United States and
Australia, ANZUS.

Lange also clashed with France after French agents bombed
the Rainbow Warrior, flagship of the environmental group
Greenpeace, in Auckland harbor in 1985 as it prepared to sail
to the French South Pacific nuclear testing area of Mururoa.

Lange described the bombing as "a sordid act of
state-backed terrorism."

At 41, Lange was New Zealand's second-youngest prime
minister. He resigned from the top job in 1989 and retired at
the 1996 general election to spend more time with his second
wife and former speech writer Margaret Pope and their young

He fought a long battle with obesity -- he once weighed 168
kg (370 pounds) -- and cited health as one reason why he stood
down. He had heart surgery in 1988 and 1996, and earlier had
his stomach stapled to reduce his eating.

The son of a doctor and the eldest of four children, Lange
was born on August 4, 1942, near Auckland.

He relaxed by driving in motor races, reading and doing
crossword puzzles. He has two sons and a daughter by his first
marriage and a son and daughter by his second. He was awarded
the Order of New Zealand, the country's highest honor, in 2003.