RIP Margaret Thatcher

April 9th, 2013 at 6:37 am by David Farrar

Margaret Thatcher has died, aged 87.

I was fortunate enough to meet Margaret Thatcher around a decade ago. It was an incredible privilege to meet the woman who I regard as the best post-war Prime Minister we have seen.

But what I remember most about that function, was all the young Eastern European politicians who got to meet her. Words can’t describe their emotions as they met one of the people they regarded as having been crucial in helping secure them their freedom.  She was to them, what George Washington was to early Americans.

Of course her respect and popularity was far from universal. She would be disappointed if she ever traded popularity for doing the right thing. There are many who battled against her policies. But people go into politics to make a difference, and Thatcher was proof that one person with conviction and strength can make a huge difference.

People forget how crippled the United Kingdom was economically when she took over. She put the Great back into Great Britain. Her greatest legacy is that after 18 years of Conservative Governments, the new Labour Government basically retained most of her policies – and in some cases Tony Blair pushed her reform agenda further. She forced UK Labour to abandon socialism and embrace the free market. ironically she helped make Labour electable.

She wouldn’t surrender to the Soviet Empire, the IRA, Argentina or the Mining unions. If she thought her cause was just, she stood by it.

Her legacy is not just what she did as Prime Minister, but getting there. She was the daughter of a shop keeper from Grantham. To rise to the leadership of her party and country was an extraordinary achievement for the 1970s.

The Daily Telegraph has a collection of quotes and reactions. A few to highlight:

Paddy Ashdown

If politics is defined as having views, holding to them and driving them through to success, she was undoubtedly the greatest PM of our age.

Lech Walesa

She was a great person. She did a great deal for the world, along with Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II and Solidarity, she contributed to the demise of communism in Poland and Central Europe.

Vaclav Klaus

Thatcher was one of the greatest politicians of our time, in the Czech Republic she was our hero.

Tony Blair

Margaret Thatcher was a towering political figure. Very few leaders get to change not only the political landscape of their country but of the world. Margaret was such a leader. Her global impact was vast. And some of the changes she made in Britain were, in certain respects at least, retained by the 1997 Labour Government, and came to be implemented by governments around the world.

As a person she was kind and generous spirited and was always immensely supportive to me as Prime Minister although we came from opposite sides of politics.

Even if you disagreed with her as I did on certain issues and occasionally strongly, you could not disrespect her character or her contribution to Britain’s national life. She will be sadly missed.

Ed Milliband

She will be remembered as a unique figure. She reshaped the politics of a whole generation. She was Britain’s first woman Prime Minister. She moved the centre ground of British politics and was a huge figure on the world stage.

The Labour Party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength.

She also defined the politics of the 1980s. David Cameron, Nick Clegg and I all grew up in a politics shaped by Lady Thatcher. We took different paths but with her as the crucial figure of that era.

She coped with her final, difficult years with dignity and courage. Critics and supporters will remember her in her prime.

David Cameron

She didn’t just lead our country, she saved our country.

I think she will come to be seen as the greatest Prime Minister our country has ever seen.

Her legacy will be the fact she served her country so well.. She showed immense courage.

People will be learning about her for decades and centuries to come.

Boris Johnson

Very sad to hear of death of Baroness Thatcher. Her memory will live long after the world has forgotten the grey suits of today’s politics.

Her final years were very tough. May she indeed now rest in peace, secure in the knowledge she will never be forgotten for what she achieved.

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RIP Geoff Braybrooke

March 12th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

Geoff Braybrooke, former long-serving Labour MP for Napier, died on Saturday.

Mr Braybrooke had been in a Palmerston North hospice following a lengthy illness.

That’s sad news. Geoff was a very likeable MP, who served his constituents well. He was MP for Napier for 21 years.

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RIP Kevin Black

February 20th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Nicholas Jones at NZ Herald reports:

The humour of trail-blazing broadcaster Kevin Black is again filling New Zealand’s airwaves in tribute after his sudden death.

Radio Hauraki, where “Blackie” reigned supreme as the country’s top radio DJ, has been playing some of his most-loved prank calls since the 69-year-old died after a suspected heart attack on Monday night.

Listeners called in throughout yesterday to recall their favourite Blackie parody calls, which set the standard for radio humour.

The highlights are:

* Called the Ministry of Mines to report that after finding readings for uranium in his backyard, he and his friend dug a 100ft hole, and thought they had better inform the authorities. A concerned and overwhelmed official, muttering “my God”, asks him if he has any professional qualifications to do such a thing. “No. I have an uncle who was a coalminer down in Westport,” Black deadpanned.

*Told a woman in Papatoetoe that her garage remote was suspected of interfering with planes flying over her home. The woman went outside and confirmed to Black that the remote was closing and opening the garage. “Now point it at the plane above you,” he instructed. “Oh, no, I don’t want to do that,” she insisted.

*Called a rental car company and asked for some modifications to be carried out before picking up his car. “I don’t want any doors, could you take them off?” he asked. “Could you also take out all the seats except the driver’s, and the bonnet, too?” Finally, the attendant asked what he would do with the car. Black explained he would race it in the stock cars on Saturday, and wanted it as light as possible.

Love them all. Some pranks can be a bit nasty and humiliating. But these were all great fun. I love the rental car one especially.

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RIP Sir Paul Holmes

February 1st, 2013 at 12:17 pm by David Farrar

My thoughts go out to the family and friends of Sir Paul Holmes. John Key has said:

“Paul Holmes was a gentleman broadcaster. He conducted his interviews with intelligence and insightfulness, and while he never suffered fools, his interviews were never without kindness and empathy,” says Mr Key.

“He was a trailblazer in New Zealand journalism with a style that was all his own.

“I also counted him as a friend and I want to personally acknowledge the pain Deborah, Lady Holmes, Millie and Reuben are now feeling and offer my heartfelt condolences,” says Mr Key.

“Paul has been part of New Zealanders’ lives since the 1970s. For more than a decade he was compulsive viewing at 7pm and, up until very recently, he was still on Q&A and his radio show. It is hard to imagine a broadcasting spectrum without him.

I did a weekly politics chat with Sir Paul on his Saturday morning ZB show for the last few years. It was a delight to do, as he was always very knowledgeable on the issues of the week – but equally I enjoyed his tendency to wonder off politics sometimes and end up discussing anything from the beauty of Vienna to good coffee. It was his ability to effortlessly hold a conversation that made him such a great broadcaster.

I was never a huge fan of the TV show that made him a household name, partly because it was somewhere between current affairs and entertainment. Where I thought he was almost a genius was on his daily morning ZB show. His ability to talk and entertain for three hours a day was almost without parallel, and I was a regular listener. Have hardly tuned in since he left it. He also brought real experience and insights to Q+A which was a must watch for me.

Of course he was not without his flaws and weaknesses, as none of us are. This however is not the time for reflecting on those. It is a time to think of the many New Zealanders who did know him well and the loss they are experiencing with his passing. I know a number of people who were very close friends of Sir Paul and they often spoke of his enormous generosity of spirit, and many small kindnesses on a personal level.

It is sad to have someone who worked so hard all his life, die so relatively young, unable to experience a long and peaceful retirement which would have been well-deserved. May he rest in peace now.

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RIP Stormin’ Norman

December 29th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

As most will have read, General Norman Schwarzkopf died yesterday aged 78.

He was an almost larger than life presence during the first Gulf War. His briefings were global media events, and he became probably the most accomplished US General since MacArthur in Korea.

Operation Desert Storm was a masterful and justified war. The land phase lasted just 100 hours. One could almost use the phrase Veni, Vidi. Vici.

Schwarzkopf was offered after the war, the role of Chief of Staff of the Army, but he turned it down. He also declined numerous invitations to stand for political office.

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RIP Thunderbirds are go

December 27th, 2012 at 8:49 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Gerry Anderson, puppetry pioneer and creator of the hit TV show Thunderbirds, has died.

Anderson’s son Jamie said his father died peacefully in his sleep at a nursing home near Oxfordshire, England, after being diagnosed with mixed dementia two years ago.

His condition had worsened dramatically over the past six months, his son said.

Anderson’s television career launched in the 1950s.

Once Thunderbirds aired in the 1960s, “Thunderbirds are go!” became a catchphrase for generations.

I loved Thunderbirds. I even knew trivia such as Thunderbird 4 was (almost) always in pod four of Thunderbird 2.

And of course there was Thundebird 6 also!

A great pioneer show.

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Rob Talbot RIP

December 24th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Last week saw the funeral of Rob Talbot. He was aged 89 but still very active until close to the end.

Rob was a South Canterbury MP for 21 years until 1987, when he was succeeded by Jenny Shipley. He is one of the relatively few surviving members of the Muldoon Cabinet.

He was a great friend of America, and served as Chairman of the NZ American Association. Ambassador Huebner was one of many who paid tribute to Rob. There is an annual Rob Talbot prize for an individual who advances friendship and mutual understanding between New Zealanders and Americans.

A 2008 story on Stuff reported:

As a senior official in Robert Muldoon’s government in the 1980s, Rob Talbot was the man who signed off on New Zealand’s first cellular network.

Fast-forward 25 years and Mr Talbot, now a sprightly 84-year-old, was proud to become one of the first people in the world to own the new generation iPhone.

Eyeing up fellow devotees as he queued for four hours outside a Wellington Vodafone store, Mr Talbot conceded he may have been the oldest person in line. But he said he was “definitely the youngest at heart”.

A former National MP who served as postmaster-general, Mr Talbot said he still got a kick out of new technology and described his latest acquisition as “the greatest piece of technology yet”. …

He travelled to Sweden in 1983 to enter contract negotiations with Ericsson, which was where he encountered the first mobile phone, affectionately known as “the brick”.

I recall the bricks! They used to come with a bag and shoulder strap to carry them around.

I didn’t make the funeral, but hear it was well attended. Rob has many friends and family who will miss him.

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JR is dead

November 25th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Larry Hagman, who created one of American television’s most supreme villains in the conniving, amoral oilman JR Ewing of Dallas, has died. He was 81.

Hagman died at a Dallas hospital of complications from his battle with throat cancer, the Dallas Morning News reported, quoting a statement from his family. He had suffered from liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver in the 1990s after decades of drinking.

I loved Dallas, and especially Hagman’s character of JR. He was and made Dallas. I was looking forward to seeing the rebooted series with so many of the old cast returning to be in it.

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RIP Bryce Courtenay

November 23rd, 2012 at 3:15 pm by David Farrar

One of the world’s great novelists has died, aged 79. I have read everyone of Bryce Courtenay’s books (except the last). Like many I discovered him through The Power of One – a truly great novel.

His Australian trilogy were equally good, especially enjoying the New Zealand aspects to them. Mary Abacus is a fascinating character, and the story (and book) of Jessica is heart breaking.

Very sad we will get no more novels from him, but I predict his books will be read for decades to come.

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RIP Greg King

November 3rd, 2012 at 5:43 pm by David Farrar

The media have just started to report that top lawyer Greg King is dead. My thoughts go out to his wife with two young daughters, but King’s death will touch many many people. He was one of , if not the most, respected criminal defence lawyers in NZ. He also had a great passion for public policy, and presented the Court Report and often took part in forums with others like Stephen Franks, as an exemplar of identifying issues, and agreeing or disagreeing on solutions without rancour.

His death is a huge loss to the legal fraternity, and those who knew him well. And again, his family most of all.

His death has been reported as non-suspicious and referred to the coroner, which of course is code for suicide. All suicides are hard to comprehend, and this one almost inexplicable. It makes his death even more tragic.

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RIP Sir Wilson Whineray

October 22nd, 2012 at 3:40 pm by David Farrar

Sir Wilson Whineray has died aged 77. A huge loss. He was the longest serving All Black captain, and many (including T.P. McLean) say he was the greatest.

He turned down Governor-General in 2006 and would have made an excellent head of state for New Zealand.

He was captain at age 23 in 1958 and remained so until 1965. After rugby he got an MBA from Harvard and eventually was Chair of Carter Holt Harvey.

His family, friends and former teammates will miss him the most, but their loss is also New Zealand’s loss. He was one of our greatest.

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My thoughts

September 28th, 2012 at 8:55 am by David Farrar

My thoughts today are with Cam, John, Claire and their families.


The big Moonie is dead

September 3rd, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the self-proclaimed messiah who turned his Unification Church into a worldwide religious movement and befriended North Korean leaders as well as US presidents, has died, church officials say. He was 92.

Moon died today at a church-owned hospital near his home in Gapyeong, northeast of Seoul, two weeks after being hospitalised with pneumonia, Unification Church spokesman Ahn Ho-yeul told The Associated Press. Moon’s wife and children were at his side, Ahn said.

Moon, born in a town that is now in North Korea, founded his religious movement in Seoul in 1954 after surviving the Korean War. He preached new interpretations of lessons from the Bible.

The church gained fame – and notoriety – in the 1970s and 1980s for holding mass weddings of thousands of followers, often from different countries, whom Moon matched up in a bid to build a multicultural religious world.

The church was accused of using devious recruitment tactics and duping followers out of money; parents of followers in the United States and elsewhere expressed worries that their children were brainwashed into joining. The church responded by saying that many other new religious movements faced similar accusations in their early stages.

Yeah, there is a reason for that.

The church was not all bad. They did some good with North Korea (where Moon had been a prisoner).But he did also serve 13 months for tax fraud in he 1980s.

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Neil Armstrong RIP

August 26th, 2012 at 9:30 am by David Farrar

Neil Armstrong has died aged 82. His name and his achievement as the first man on the moon must be one of the most well known on the planet. His quote of “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” will remain with us for generations.

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Mourning three more soldiers

August 20th, 2012 at 7:12 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Taleban has claimed responsibility for the bomb attack that killed three New Zealand soldiers only two weeks after the deaths of Lance Corporals Rory Malone and Pralli Durrer in a firefight.

The Defence Force said that at approximately 9.20am (Afghanistan time) yesterday, the last vehicle in a convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device, North West of Do Abe, Bamiyan, on the road to Romero.

As always thoughts are with the families, comrades and friends of the dead soldiers.

My thoughts are also with the wider families of all those serving in Afghanistan. It is obvious that the situation for the PRT has become more dangerous. The other families will be hoping for no further incidents during this final 12 months in Afghanistan.

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Graham Watson RIP

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

I’ve just heard that Graham Watson 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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RIP Timi te Heuheu

July 12th, 2012 at 1:04 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

One of Maoridom’s senior statesmen, Timoti (Timi) te Heuheu, has died.

The Ngati Tuwharetoa leader is the brother of paramount chief Tumu te Heuheu and husband of former Cabinet minister Georgina te Heuheu.

Timi te Heuheu was a lively figure who worked tirelessly as a tribal diplomat and link between iwi Maori, politics and business.

He will be taken to Waihi Marae on the shores of Lake Taupo today, where he will lay in state.

I met Timi a few times, through Georgina. A lovely selfless man, who cared greatly about New Zealand. My condolences to Georgie and family.

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RIP David Allanson

July 3rd, 2012 at 6:01 pm by David Farrar

David Allanson died unexpectedly this morning. David had worked at Parliament for 23 years as a security guard. As with many of the security team, he was a first class person who was always friendly and interesting to talk to.

Despite me having left the place eight years ago, Dave always greeted me warmly when I visited and made me feel like I had never left. He was a lovely guy.

My condolences go out to his family, and to his colleagues and friends.  He will be missed by many.

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Sir Brian Talboys RIP

June 4th, 2012 at 9:52 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Brian Talboys has died at the age of 90.

Sir Brian, who represented the Southland electorate of Wallace for eight elections from 1957, served as a Minister in the National Governments of Sir Keith Holyoake and Sir Robert Muldoon. He was Deputy Prime Minister under Muldoon from 1975 to 1981.

Born in Whanganui in 1921, Sir Brian served in the air force during World War II. After the war, he settled in Southland as a farmer and entered politics, winning the Wallace seat in 1957.

He was agriculture minister, science minister and then education minister under Holyoake, before becoming deputy leader of the National Party in Opposition in 1974, under Muldoon.

After National’s victory in the 1975 election, he became deputy prime minister and served in that role for the first two terms of the Muldoon Government, retiring in 1981.

My condolences to his family and friends.

Talboys could have been Prime Minister, if he had wanted the job badly enough. In 1980 Jim Bolger, Jim McLay and Derek Quigley organised the “Colonels’ Coup” and settled on Talboys as the preferred replacement for Muldoon. Talboys refused an open challenge though, and Muldoon fought back meaning no vote occured.

It is interesting to consider what may have happened if Talboys had become PM. Without the excesses of third term Muldoon, would we have had the Rogernomics revolution as a reponse?

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RIP Phil Lamason

May 21st, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A true Kiwi war hero has died, aged 93 in Dannevirke. I blogged about Phil Lamason in March:

At the weekend the film Lost Airmen of Buchenwald was on television. It told a fascinating little known story of 168 allied airmen who were illegally sent to a concentration camp in WWII, and how Acting Squadron Leader Phil Lamason kept them alive. Lamason is a kiwi, and amazingly is still alive aged 93.

The 168 airmen were sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, which was technically not an extermination camp, but still saw 55,000 people shot or worked to death.

Lamason as the senior officer assumed command of the airmen, and many of them say his leadership kept them alive. Lamason kept asking for them to be transferred to a POW camp, but this was denied. They were ordered to work as slave labour. Lamason refused to order the men to work, as allied soliders could not work for war production for the Nazis. He refused to back down even when threatened with summary execution by an SS officer.

Lamason managed to get word to the Luftwaffe, about the airmen being held at the concentration camp. He was hoping they would intervene, as they would not wish their captured airmen in the UK to be treated in the same way. Two Luftwaffe officers visited the camp pretending to inspect bomb damage, and talked to Lamason. They reported to Hermann Goering who ordered them transferred.

However before news of the transfer came through, they were ordered to be shot on 26 October. Only Lamarson knew this, but didn’t tell the others to keep morale high. Then the transfer came through on 19 October.  They were just one week away from execution. 166 of the airmen were transferred and survived.

It was a fascinating documentary and well worth watching. New Zealanders can be very proud of Mr Lamason, a true war hero.

I’m very glad I saw that documentary and learnt about Mr Lamason, when he was still alive. All New Zealanders should be proud of his courage and leadership. My thoughts go out to his family.

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RIP Fred Allen

April 28th, 2012 at 1:01 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

All Black great Sir Fred Allen has passed away.

Sir Fred, who at age 92 was the oldest living All Black, had been battling ill health for some time and was in full-time care on the Whangaparoa Peninsula.

He passed away at 3.30am on Saturday morning.

Despite illness, Sir Fred tried to remain as active as ever in recent times.

Earlier this week he unveiled a bridge on Sir Fred All Walk of Honour  at Auckland Memorial Park, Silverdale.

Now that is service until the very end.

He is among the rare group of players to have both played and coached the All Blacks.

The star first-five played 21 matches for the All Blacks, including six tests, between 1946-49. …

After ending his playing days, Sir Fred took up coaching.

He was an All Black selector between 1964-65 and then coached the men in black between 1966-68.

His coaching tenure, which saw him known as ‘The Needle’, included the All Blacks winning all 14 tests under his control.

We have truly lost one of the greats.

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Peter Tapsell RIP

April 7th, 2012 at 9:11 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Sir Peter Tapsell, the first Maori Speaker of the House, has died at home in Ruatoria, aged 82.

Sir Peter, who entered Parliament in 1981 as the Labour MP for what was then the Eastern Maori electorate, held the role of Speaker from 1993 to 1996.

Before becoming Speaker, Sir Peter held the portfolios of  internal affairs, arts, police, civil defence, science and forestry.

He retired from politics in 1996.

Sir Peter, who was an orthopaedic surgeon before becoming an MP, was awarded a MBE in 1968 for services to medicine and the Maori people.

Sir Peter was a very dignified Speaker, and a rarity – he was a Speaker from an opposition party.

An absolute gentleman, whom few people would ever have a bad word about.

Condolences as always to his family.

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Paul Callaghan RIP

March 24th, 2012 at 3:56 pm by David Farrar

Sir Paul Callaghan succumbed today to his colon cancer.  Probably not a household name, but he was one of the greatest scientists.

He was made a Professor in his 30s and later established the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology. Amongst his many prizes were the Ampere Prize and Rutherford Medal. He was the Kiwibank 2011 New Zealander of the Year.

His full list of qualifications and honours were BSc(Hons) DPhil DSc Oxf GNZM FRS FRSNZ FInstP FNZIP.

He wasn’t just a scientist though, but also was an expert in the commercial use of science and technology.

Condolences to his family and friends.

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RIP Jock Hobbs

March 13th, 2012 at 5:53 pm by David Farrar

The inevitable has happened and Jock Hobbs had died. For me it is especially poignant as Hobbs was All Black Captain when I was at secondary school and like most my age worshiped the All Blacks.

His contribution to NZ rugby administration is immense, and arguably unparalleled. His death is several decades too early. The most moving aspect of the Rugby World Cup for me was when Hobbs presented Richie McCaw with his 100th test cap. You could see how ill Hobbs was, and knew he couldn’t have much time to go.

Hobbs also had an interest in politics, and would have made an excellent MP and Minister if he had ever said yes to numerous entreaties to stand.

As always my condolences go out to his family, and close friends.

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RIP Owen McShane

March 6th, 2012 at 8:38 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan facebooks:

Just a note to say that Owen McShane died suddenly today. He had a major heart operation a year or so ago. Was a contributor to NBR in recent years but long time commentator on Auckland planning issues and RMA.

Owen contributed a huge amount to public policy in New Zealand ranging from being a commentator here at one end of the scale to having done a ministerial reviews of the RMA. He was a wealth of knowledge on planning issues, and a consistent voice for less regulation and centralised control.

He was a fine New Zealander, and will be missed my many,

My thoughts go out to his family and close friends.

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