Former New Zealand First MP Brian Donnelly has died, aged 58. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters informed Parliament on Thursday that Donnelly died at 2.20pm.

Donnelly left Parliament earlier this year when he was appointed High Commissioner to the Cook Islands.

He resigned from that position in August due to ill health.

Peters paid tribute to his former colleague, saying Donnelly was a man of enormous integrity and character, a superb member of caucus and a loyal Member of Parliament.

“I’m certain I can say that across the divide of politics he had friends everywhere,” Peters said.

Donnelly was born in Auckland in November 1949. He won a scholarship to Sacred Heart College and studied at Auckland and Massey universities.

He gained a bachelor of education degree, and went on to work in the education field for the next 25 years.

Donnelly taught in primary, secondary and intermediate schools. At one point in his career he was deputy principal of a college in Rarotonga.

He was a keen sportsman and represented Auckland, Northland, New Zealand Universities and the New Zealand Colts in rugby league. He was a trialist for the national rugby league side.

Donnelly entered politics in 1996, standing for New Zealand First in Whangarei and coming close to winning the seat.

He entered Parliament as a list MP and was appointed deputy minister of education in the National/New Zealand First coalition government.

Donnelly is survived by his wife Linda and their three children.