Respected Journalist, Commentator, Historian Graeme Hunt Dies Suddenly
Obituary by Selwyn Manning.
Journalist, author, historian Graeme Hunt died at home September 22. (Photo by Selwyn Manning, August 2010.)
Graeme Hunt (58) died suddenly on Wednesday September 22 2010 at his home at Greenhithe, Auckland. He had recently been diagnosed with heart problems and had undergone surgery. He was found yesterday at home when concerns arose after he did not attend a meeting. His passing leaves a large space within New Zealand's writing and historian circles. He was a respected journalist, skilled researcher/writer, robust debater, and a man of values.
Graeme Hunt was born in 1952 and was proud of his birthplace Auckland. He was equally proud of his work as deputy chair with One Tree Hill College's board of trustees (formerly Penrose High School). Graeme governed with zest and successfully oversaw the change of the college's name to One Tree Hill in 2008. The change proved to be a wise one that saw the school's role increase and more reflect the culture of the surrounding area in this new millennium. Graeme had attended the school back in the 1960s. He had also been a member of Kelston Girls' board of trustees.
Graeme was recognised as a writer of repute. His attention to detail, assisted by his elephantine memory, was a style that assured other journalists and researchers that his work was far more than a first draft of history, it could be relied on as accurate, a resource for future works.
Graeme became a journalist in 1974, and soon became the Auckland Star's youngest business editor. He was the NBR's news editor from 1998 to 2000. Then as editor at large for the National Business Review, Graeme was the journalist and driver behind The Rich List.
He embarked on his own publishing and writing business in 2003, and was a regular contract business/economics writer for the New Zealand Herald. He was also a contract political commentator for NewsTalk ZB.
As an author, Graeme made a noted impression on New Zealand's non-fiction fraternity. His political and business orientated works were solidly argued and tightly written. If a reader did not agree with Graeme's opinion, the reader would certainly understand how Graeme came to hold the view.
Graeme was a staunch opponent against Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP). He wrote the book Why MMP Must Go (1998), perhaps one of his most controversial books. But also of note was his book Scandal at Cave Creek: A Shocking Failure in Public Accountability (1996) where he argued that the tragedy involving the death of 14 people was the result of “gross negligence” by the Department of Conservation.
Graeme also wrote a comprehensive account of New Zealand's more dodgy businessmen, styled as a business insider's account founded on impeccable research and facts, with Hustlers, Rogues & Bubble Boys: White-Collar Mischief in New Zealand (2001).
As an historian author, Graeme demonstrated these skills in writing the book Spies and Revolutionaries: A History of New Zealand Subversion (2007). It was a most impressive account of the history and culture of New Zealand's security and intelligence agencies and the political environment from within which they were established.
The book proved controversial in that it argued that former New Zealand civil servant and accused Soviet spy, Bill Sutch, was guilty of the crime he was accused of. The book was launched in Wellington by the then prime minister Helen Clark and detailed a most accurate historical account of major issues and cases (including a critique of the Ahmed Zaoui case) that were intertwined with, or in opposition of, New Zealand's intelligence apparatus.
Other books included historical accounts: By Skill and Spirit: A History of the Auckland Officers’ Club (2009); First to Care: 125 Years of the Order of St John in New Zealand, 1885–2010 (2009); Pride and Passion: AECOM's 90 Years of Civil Engineering and Consultancy in New Zealand, 1919–2009 (2009); and a critical account of a significant unionist, with the Black Prince: The Biography of Fintan Patrick Walsh (2004).
In 2010 he decided to enter politics, campaigning for North Now as the new Local Government team's Albany ward leading candidate.
He was a forthright debater. Last week (September 13 2010), Graeme Hunt called for postal voting in Local Government elections to be replaced by the polling booth method.
“Postal voting undermines the sanctity of the voting system. It robs absentee voters of a local democratic voice and it makes electoral fraud much easier. Across the country in 2007 voter turnout was a miserable 44 per cent, suggesting major flaws in the postal voting system.The traditional polling-booth method of voting has much more going for it. It makes election night important by creating a higher level of public interest and a sense of occasion,” Graeme Hunt said.
Graeme was able to make friendships with people from all political persuasions, his values and friendship being sincere and contagious.
He recently remarried and often spoke proudly of his wife Saluma, his son Robert (21) and daughter Ellen (19), and his close friends.
As a friend, Graeme will very much be missed, his unconditional support and genuine love of progress set him apart as a most honourable man. New Zealand's writing and historian fraternity is sadly now notably lighter.