Prime Minister John Key has expressed sadness at the news of Nelson Mandela's death.
"Nelson Mandela was an inspirational leader, and a remarkable man.
"On behalf of the New Zealand people and the Government, I would like to express my sincere condolences to both his family and all South Africans," he said.
"For years he symbolised South Africa's hope for a future free from apartheid.
"Mr Mandela was a force for change, not only in South Africa, but around the world.
"It's a very sad day and emotional day for the people of South Africa, and Nelson Mandela will be remembered for being an incredibly inspirational leader, someone that was a beacon of hope for the people of South Africa but someone who also believed passionately in reconciliation.
''He is someone that leaders around the world have looked to and ... for the people of New Zealand someone that we've had great admiration for."
Key said be intended to attend the funeral with a group of representatives.
"I think it's appropriate that, given the stature of such an incredible man and his deeds and achievements, that New Zealand should be represented by myself."
Opposition leader David Cunliffe said the death of Mandela left "an enormous void".
"Nelson Mandela was not just a champion for a generation of South Africans, but was an internationally renowned anti-apartheid campaigner. His name became synonymous with peace and democracy," Cunliffe said.
"Nelson Mandela has been one of my life-long heroes. My first ever political demonstration was an anti-apartheid march to free Nelson Mandela.
"His indomitable spirit was an inspiration to millions. He displayed remarkable dignity in rising above the wrongs of apartheid to unite his people and his nation."
Cunliffe said the world was a "poorer place" for his passing and "he will never be forgotten".
"Our condolences go to his family and to the many who will be mourning with them today."
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said Nelson Mandela's life showed how one person could make a difference.
"Despite Nelson Mandela's imprisonment and ill-treatment at the hands of the South African regime, he, more than anyone else, helped to move his country forward to a new era of democracy," he said.
Norman said today would be a day of great sadness for all those who played their part in fighting against the iniquities of apartheid.
"For many New Zealanders and especially Maori who had opposed the Springbok tour of 1981, Nelson Mandela was an inspirational figure."
Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral is to host a memorial service to give thanks for the life of Mandela, at the request of the South African Consulate. The date and time of the Service is yet to be set.
Next week there will be a public memorial book opened for Mandela in St Mary’s Church, next to the cathedral, for anyone to add their tributes.
Former prime minister and now Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme Helen Clark said she counted herself fortunate to among those who had met Mandela.
"It was with great personal sadness that I learned of the passing of Nelson Mandela today," she said.
"Nelson Mandela was an extraordinary man who represented for many around the world the ideals of freedom, peace, and justice.
"Like many of my generation, I was inspired by Nelson Mandela's vision for a democratic South Africa. Dismantling the apartheid system and building a South Africa in which all enjoyed equal rights of citizenship was the cause to which Mr Mandela devoted his life."
Clark said his words and deed would continue to inspire those who fought injustice.
"That too will be the enduring legacy of this great man who dedicated his life to the cause of a better life for others. I count myself fortunate to have been among those privileged to meet Mr Mandela and to have heard personally his vision for his country and its people. May Nelson Mandela rest in peace."
Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae said Mandela's death marked the passing of a "global legend".
Mateparae said he was "a man and a leader whose example moved humanity and the world".
"For the people of South Africa, in particular, it is a time of great sadness. They mourn the loss of Madiba, often described as their father of the nation.
"However, in every country the world over, many will sense that a bright light has been extinguished; that we have lost a statesman who showed that patience, humility and forgiveness could work miracles and could overcome the forces of dogma, inertia and violence."
He said New Zealand was also "deeply mourning" Mandela's death, and called him a "man of great courage, vision and mana" who guided South Africa from the "evil of apartheid to a racially inclusive democracy".
"His leadership showed oppressed peoples worldwide that moral force can end tyranny. His leadership brought hope for a better future to millions."
Mateparae said that while Mandela was an iconic symbol of hope, peace and justice worldwide, he was also a family man; "whose wife, children and wider family grieve for the loss of the private man that only they knew".
"As Governor-General of New Zealand, on behalf of all New Zealanders, my wife Janine and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Mandela family and to the people of South Africa at this very sad time."
Former Commonwealth Secretary General Sir Don McKinnon sent his condolences all South Africans, as well as Mandela's family.
“Nelson Mandela was a great man in every sense of the word. As well as the sense of loss at the news of his death, I think all of us all over the world are grateful that Nelson Mandela showed us that forgiveness and love can triumph over evil," McKinnon said.
“He endured 27 years of imprisonment and yet held no bitterness towards his captors. He embraced them as brothers and sisters and it is due to this extraordinary example that South Africa averted a bloodbath as it transitioned from apartheid to democracy.
MicKinnon said he had the privilege of meeting Mandela several times.
"He had an intense presence and his smile lit up the room. He focussed solely on the individual he was meeting even if it was for just a few seconds, and he made them feel special.
“Mr Mandela told me he was grateful for the constant support of the Commonwealth through the freedom struggle and his years in prison.
“He has left the world a far better place than he found it and we have to be thankful for his life and his legacy.”
NZ First leader Winston Peters has also joined Parliament's leaders to express his sadness.
He said Mandela's legacy would have a lasting effect on South Africa.
"Nelson Mandela was a beacon to all those in South Africa who looked to heal the divisions of the past and to unite all South Africans heading forward.
"And who in New Zealand could forget the sight of the newly-elected Nelson Mandela at the 1995 Rugby World Cup?"
Peters said his party extended its sympathies to Mandela's friends and family, "and to the South African nation".
Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown offered her condolences on Mandela's death.
"His sacrifice of 26 years in prison and his willingness to lead reconciliation with his imprisoners remains truly inspirational," she said.
Wellington Town Hall would fly the South African flag at half-mast.
Nelson Mandela was inspirational. On behalf of NZ I’d like to express my sincere condolences to his family and all South Africans.
— John Key (@johnkeypm) December 5, 2013
The greatest contribution to human rights, democracy and humanitarianism of the last century. A leader without peer. Rest now. #Mandela
— Grant Robertson (@grantrobertson1) December 5, 2013
— Helen Clark (@HelenClarkUNDP) December 5, 2013
Sad to hear about Nelson Mandela's passing. He has lived a good life and lead real change in South Africa
— Gareth Hughes (@GarethMP) December 5, 2013
Thoughts are with South Africa and South Africans as they enter the post Mandela era. A great man now deservedly at rest.
— Peter Dunne (@PeterDunneMP) December 5, 2013