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Sir Paul Reeves - Statement in the House

Sir Paul Reeves - Statement in the House

I join with the House in expressing our sadness at the passing of Paul Reeves and in expressing condolences to his family.

As our Governor General he helped to bring New Zealand into a new era, because he was so obviously different to those before him.

He was the first Māori to hold the position, and the first to come to the job from outside the customary establishment diplomatic and legal circles.

And more than that he had a highly developed sense of social awareness, and he was not afraid to express his thoughts.

He was our first Governor General to have grown up after the Depression of the thirties, and like so many others who came of age in that time, he was influenced by the change it made to New Zealand, and the way we think about ourselves.

Throughout his life he identified with the cause of social and economic justice. He came from a modest family background and never allowed himself to forget that.

He knew from simply growing up and looking around that economic adversity and social exclusion can wound deeply, and that we owe it to everyone born into our communities to give them as equal as possible a start in life, the sort of fair go society that most New Zealanders want to live in, and which is one of our most admirable achievements.

He spoke out against division - between rich and poor, and against racial divisiveness.

He was not afraid to push the limits of his constitutional position and its conventions and to make himself felt in political areas where his predecessors would have been reluctant to tread.

I’m sure too that often his words would have irritated politicians, and yet he spoke always with such charm and good humour that they couldn’t possibly take public issue with him, even if he was subtly but effectively chiding them.

He was always able to make his point effectively and to cause those he was addressing to pause and take stock without giving offence.

But above all he wore his talents lightly because Paul Reeves had that one thing above all else which marks out those who serve us best – his modesty.

Truly with his passing a mighty totara has fallen.


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