George Gair, founding member of PRINZ remembered

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21 August, 2015

Former colleagues and PRINZ Fellows, Paul Thompson and Michael Player share their memories of working with PRINZ founding member George Gair who passed away on Monday 17 August.

Hon George F Gair, by Paul Thompson

PRINZ Fellow Paul Thompson remembers his friend and former boss George Gair with great respect and fondness.

Paul was Communications Manager at the former North Shore City Council when he met George who served as Mayor between 1995-98, a turbulent time for the growing city.

“George applied his considerable charm and diplomacy to chair a council which was frankly dysfunctional and featuring several vexatious characters and controversies.

“During his mayoral term much was achieved including the opening of both the North Harbour Stadium and the Bruce Mason Centre, a performing arts facility for which George personally fundraised.”

Infrastructural under-investment, particularly in transport and water services, were being actively addressed. The Project CARE beach water quality programme and what became the Northern Busway were advanced under his stewardship.

While best known as a politician of note, George was both a journalist and public relations officer. Among his achievements was to serve as a promoter, bringing for the first time to NZ the Harlem Globetrotters.

Paul worked with Simone Bell in 2014 to ensure George’s recollections of PRINZ’s formation in 1954 were recorded on video.

“I will miss the wit and wisdom of the liberal Tory I was proud to call a friend.”

George Gair – Politician and PR practitioner, by Michael Player

PRINZ Fellow Michael Player served as George Gair's ministerial Press Secretary for seven years.

He recalls Gair as being the quintessential consensus politician.

"George's pre-politics career as a public relations practitioner for the North Shore City Council and Air New Zealand equipped him with wonderful skills to forge deals in seemingly impossible situations," said Michael.

He represented the liberal end of the Muldoon Government. His views on abortion law reform and his support for Members of Parliament such as Marilyn Waring put him at odds with the Prime Minister on many occasions. Muldoon's response was to keep George Gair busy with a heavy load of portfolios. This included simultaneously holding the warrants of the large portfolios of health and social welfare.

"George Gair's ministerial achievements were numerous. These included abandoning proposals for nuclear power, deregulation of the 90 mile road/rail limit, introducing population based funding for hospital boards, radical changes to nurse training, and merging six entities to create the Ministry of Energy. Gair was also successful in introducing random stopping for driver alcohol checks in the face of considerable opposition from some of his cabinet and caucus colleagues.

"He had a gift for fashioning speeches which always had to have a 'news nose' to reach beyond the immediate audience to the wider public via the news media.

"His favourite homily for speeches was the story about Sir Christopher Wren and the building of St Paul's cathedral. An incognito Wren asked three workmen what they were doing. The first said he was laying bricks. The second said he was a carpenter. The third said he was helping Sir Christopher Wren build a great cathedral.

"George's philosophy, humanity and deep commitment to building a better New Zealand were trademarks of a man who made a great contribution to public life and the progress of public relations. He remained a cogent commentator throughout his long life and relished attending the PRINZ Awards Gala dinner last year," said Michael.