14 Aug 2011

Sir Paul Reeves dies

5:46 pm on 14 August 2011

Former Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves has died.

Sir Paul, who was 78, died in Auckland on Sunday. Last month it was announced he had been diagnosed with cancer and was withdrawing from most public roles to spend more time with his wife and family.

Sir Paul became Archbishop of New Zealand in 1980 and served as Governor-General from 1985 to 1990.

In a statement, the Reeves family acknowledged the immense support they had received since the announcement of the recent cancer diagnosis.

The immediate family was spending private time with Sir Paul before the public tangi began on Monday at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Auckland.

"The whanau acknowledge and are very aware of the immense grief and loss felt by Maori, the Church and the wider community, and there will be time and opportunity for people to pay their respects in the days to come," the statement said.

Tributes flow

Prime Minister John Key said New Zealand had lost one of its greatest statesmen.

"Sir Paul's contribution to New Zealand did not end when he left Government House. He spent another two decades serving at the highest level. We are indebted."

Mr Key said a state funeral was being arranged.

Speaking on behalf of the Anglican Church, Archbishop David Moxon said Sir Paul took the office of being a bishop and an archbishop into the role of Governor-General.

"He aimed to bring people together, to listen to people at the edges and to speak to issues. In his role he was always present amongst the people.

"Bishop Paul was and remains a taonga to us and future generations."

Sir Geoffrey Palmer, who was Prime Minister during Sir Paul's five-year term as Governor General, says he was warm and empathetic and never forgot his Maori roots.

The current Governor General, Sir Anand Satyanand, says Sir Paul had a passion for social justice.

Sir Anand describes Sir Paul as the quintessential New Zealander who came from humble beginnings to make his mark.

He says Sir Paul was a great role model who was never satisfied with the status quo.

Decades of public service

Sir Paul was born in Wellington in 1932 and educated at Wellington Boys' College and Victoria University.

On winning a Sir Apirana Ngata Scholarship, he gained a Masters degree at Victoria University before training for priesthood at Auckland's St John's Theological College.

The first Queen's representative of Maori descent, he belonged through his mother to the Puketapu hapu of Te Atiawa in Taranaki.

He came gradually to his heritage when, as vicar at Okato, he found himself among his mother's relatives and began to receive guidance in tikanga Maori.

He became Bishop of Waipu in 1971, the youngest Anglican priest to be consecrated a bishop in New Zealand, and Bishop of Auckland in 1975. In 1980, he became Archbishop of New Zealand.

Some saw him as too politically outspoken to be Governor-General. He had stood against Rob Muldoon's Think Big strategies and the 1981 Springbok tour, and had been a key name in the 1975 Citizens for Rowling Campaign to block Mr Muldoon's rise to power.

Appointed during the fourth Labour Government, Sir Paul openly opposed its right-wing economics, and said society should be driven not by economists but by people who understand pluralistic, multicultural society. The then Finance Minister Roger Douglas publicly rebuked him.

At the end of his term as Governor-General, Sir Paul moved to New York as the first Anglican Consultative Council representative at the United Nations.

He chaired a review of the Fiji constitution, which reported in 1996. In 1998, he was among church leaders setting off from Cape Reinga on the Hikoi of Hope against poverty.

In later roles, he chaired the Bioethics Council, directed and chaired the QE2 National Trust Board and was briefly Dean of the Maori Anglican Theological College.

He was made an Honorary Member of the Order of New Zealand on Waitangi Day in 2007.

Sir Paul Reeves is survived by his wife Beverley, Lady Reeves, and their three daughters.