Graham Watson RIP

August 9th, 2012 at 12:26 pm by David Farrar

I’ve just heard that died in a car crash near Pokeno, and am stunned like many who knew Graham and regarded him as a friend.

Picture from Blair Mullholland’s blog.

I first met Graham at an NZUSA council in the late 1980s. Graham (then known as Wally). He was the charismastic roguish President of the Auckland University Students’ Association, AUSA. Graham got elected President an unprecedented four times, serving three terms. Even after his terms of office, he continued to be a major force in Auckland student politics. At various time he was a life member and/or also banned from AUSA premises. His ability to get a crowd to an SRC meeting and vote with him was loved and feared in equal measure.

Graham was also the major reasons AUSA went voluntary in the late 1990s, when referenda were held. He campaigned tirelessly speaking in lecture theatre after lecture theatre. NZUSA flew up staff to counter him, and AUSA  spent masses urging a vote to stay compulsory. But Graham and Richie Watson (no relation), a few activist and around a $500 budget won. The margin was barely in double figures. I recall speaking to Graham that night as we both got very very drunk, celebrating a histroic achievement. The result at AUSA made it easier to pass the VSM bill years later.

Graham was a bit of a rogue, in a good way. His presidency had the odd scandal. When he was campaigning for VSM he would actually cite scandals that occurred on his watch, as reasons for VSM. Only Graham would have the chutzpah to do it.

Graham stayed with me in Wellington a couple of times, and later on become the ACT Party Manager, where I dealt with him professionally a fair bit. Many in ACT will know him, and mourn his far too early death.

Graham was an very capable and charismatic individual, who was lots of fun, and made a difference. I mourn his passing, and my thoughts are with his family.

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16 Responses to “Graham Watson RIP”

  1. Lucia Maria (2,277 comments) says:

    I’m sorry to hear this. Sudden deaths are always the worst.

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  2. IHStewart (388 comments) says:

    Very sad to hear it. He loved to party at NZUSA conferences.

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  3. Jimmy Smits (246 comments) says:

    Did he occasionally comment on this blog? His name seems familiar. RIP.

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  4. Chuck Bird (4,831 comments) says:

    Very sorry to hear of Graham’s untimely death. He was a very hard worker and did a very good job as ACT Party Manager.

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  5. Ryan Sproull (7,093 comments) says:

    Agh. I didn’t know about this. Graham and I had our differences, but I’d like to think we both managed to respect each other.

    RIP, and condolences to his family.

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  6. Ryan Sproull (7,093 comments) says:

    Any details on the funeral?

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  7. David Seymour (8 comments) says:

    Absolute legend, one of the most talented orators in NZ and great company. RIP Graham we will miss you.

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  8. capitald (72 comments) says:

    I remember Graham from my ACT days about ten years ago. Feisty campaigner. RIP Graham.

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  9. Ryan Sproull (7,093 comments) says:

    Funeral is on Tuesday at 1.30pm, Papakura Anglican Church, obituary in tomorrow’s Herald, I believe.

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  10. Chris Diack (739 comments) says:

    Very sad. He was an operator.

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  11. metiria (7 comments) says:

    Me too, it sucks that he went like this. I knew Graham from auck uni NORML days, he was hilarious and bad and incorrigible and terrifying. We talked about how to keep ACT committed to drug law reform when he was thier campaign manager, it was around the same time I first stood for election too, I think. It was funny we were both doing establishment politics – who’d have thunk it of either of us? I’m forever grateful he never joined the Green Party. It would have been both great fun and deeply traumatic to have watched him storm through us!

    He had many more years of raising hell left in him. Love to all who think fondly of him.

    [DPF: Thanks Metiria - I think you just summed Graham up wonderfully well.]

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  12. Jamie (9 comments) says:

    One of those rare people I could disagree with on just about anything yet still like.

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  13. duggledog (1,499 comments) says:

    Yes I remember him from Akl uni, definitely one of those people who make life interesting.

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  14. paul henry (49 comments) says:

    I remember him from mid-90s Akl Uni, was regularly stacking lunch tables into pyramids in the quad. Always denied it, despite being president of the (something like) Akl Uni Table Stacking Society.

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  15. Willie_Escaped (29 comments) says:

    I’ll never forget the man walking into a party late, wearing an 80s brown velour tracksuit and not giving 2 fucks, in legendary fashion. He had cojones, that’s for sure. RIP

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  16. robin booth (1 comment) says:

    I knew Graham fairly well up until a few years ago to the point where he stayed at my place when in Christchurch and I at his when in Auckland. He was the sort of person who seemed to give me an extra boost of confidence and purpose whenever he was around. In my opinion Graham was was one of the most likeable guys I have ever met, whose great intelligence, enthusiasm, integrity and potential were sadly undermined by his few but significant weaknesses.

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