His death was announced by the New Zealand government. Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Judith Tizard said in a statement that Farquhar "made an enormous contribution to New Zealand music — as a highly valued professor, a committed advocate of New Zealand music, and a prolific and celebrated New Zealand composer."
"He has had a profound influence on the education of a significant number of New Zealand musicians and composers," she added, "having taught for over forty years at Victoria University of Wellington."
Farquhar was born in Cambridge on the country's North Island in 1928 and began composing music at age 11, according to Radio New Zealand. He later studied composition at Canterbury and Victoria University Colleges before continuing his studies at Cambridge University and the Guildhall School in England.
In 1953, he began a notable association with the New Zealand Players theater group. His work for them included the popular dances for Ring Around the Moon and the opera A Unicorn for Christmas.
That same year, he joined the music department of Victoria University; he was appointed professor in 1976 and retired in 1993.
Professor Farquhar told his students that "music should entertain," according to Radio New Zealand, which adds that he was seen as "a highly accomplished craftsman able to express effectively his originality and his musical ideas in any medium."
He was founder-president of the Composers' Association of New Zealand in 1974 and in 2004 was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to music.