A Double Loss
We lost two special New Zealanders last week with the passing of former Tasman and Nelson Mayor Kerry Marshall and former Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimmons.
Kerry made a stunning contribution to our region. He taught my wife Linley and was extraordinarily talented teacher in making learning fun. He carried the same infectious positivity into public life as the last Mayor of Richmond Borough then on to become the first Mayor of Tasman for three terms and then Mayor of Nelson for a term.
Kerry’s greatest contribution to our region was successfully forging the diverse Richmond, Motueka, Waimea and Golden Bay boroughs and counties into the Tasman District Council in 1988. Many merged councils of that era remained divided for years. Kerry’s uniting personality proved to be the right person at the right time and in the right place.
Projects I worked with Kerry on included the initiatives of Saxton Field sporting complex with Nelson Mayor Peter Malone, the Richmond Aquatic Centre, the Kahurangi National Park, Whakatu Drive and the upgrading of Nelson’s Trafalgar Park facilities.
I have always been in awe of Kerry’s natural skill as a speaker and performer. His dapper fashion matched his colourful personality and he could always make young and old laugh.
Some politicians have great minds and others great personalities. Kerry was exceptional in having both. He was very broad in his knowledge and enthusiasm that covered the arts, sport, education and business.
Kerry and I have both served Tasman and Nelson, he as Mayor and I as MP. We shared a passion for town and country, working together and favoured a single Nelson District Council. Kerry also contributed nationally through his Presidency of Local Government NZ and chairing the NZ Conservation Authority.
I must also pay tribute to Kerry’s wife Colleen who has and continues to make an amazing contribution to Nelson’s music, education and arts communities. We must thank Kerry’s family and the staff of Ernest Rutherford for the care they took of this wonderful man over his last years.
I shared 14 years in Parliament with former Alliance and then Green MP Jeanette Fitzsimmons. She led the brave move in 1988 for the Green party to split from Jim Anderton’s Alliance Party and she did so with total class and without bitterness. Many commentators wrote the Greens off but with then co-leader Rod Donald the party went on to prosper while the Alliance collapsed.
I spent years on select committees with Jeanette. We shared a passion for nature and we kept in touch since she retired from Parliament. She was principled, intelligent and built main stream support for the environment cause.
Jeanette Fitzsimmons and Kerry Marshall leave a legacy and style of public leadership that sets a high bar. Respect for democracy worldwide is being tested by politicians who thrive on division and nastiness. Many accept it is just part of politics. Kerry and Jeanette showed it is possible to lead and be pleasant, polite and professional. May they Rest in Peace.