Mr Clarke, 90, was elected to Environment Waikato (now known as Waikato Regional Council) at its formation in 1989, representing Hauraki and Matamata-Piako constituencies for 15 years.
Waikato Regional Council chair Alan Livingston said, “Neil was a gentleman and astute politician, highly respected for his leadership and ability to work with others.
“Neil recognised the national significance of the iconic Lake Taupō and one of his most significant and enduring legacies was securing an agreement with central government and the Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs to share funding of the multi-agency project to protect it.
“It’s a project that’s about people working together to safeguard the clean waters of this lake, and it continues today,” Cr Livingston said.
“We extend our deepest condolences to Neil’s wife Carlene and their family,” he said.
Mr Clarke was elected chairman of the Land Transport and Corporate Services committees and was later elected deputy chairman of Environment Waikato. At his retirement in October 2004 he had spent nine years as Environment Waikato’s chairman.
He was chairman of the Regional Affairs Committee – a group of chairs of regional councils and unitary authorities – and was on the New Zealand Council for Local Government.
He had also been chairman of Trust Waikato, deciding in 2004 not to seek reappointment when the role was renewed.
Mr Clarke received an OBE for outstanding services to the transport and banking industries, local government and community organisations. He received a QSO in 2005. In 2012 he was among five inaugural inductees into the New Zealand Road Transport Hall of Fame.