George Gair

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George Gair

George Gair.jpg
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for North Shore
In office
Preceded byDean Eyre
Succeeded byBruce Cliffe
3rd Mayor of North Shore City
In office
Preceded byPaul Titchener
Succeeded byGeorge Wood
19th High Commissioner of New Zealand to the United Kingdom
In office
Preceded byBryce Harland
Succeeded byJohn Collinge
Personal details
George Frederick Gair

(1926-10-13)13 October 1926
Dunedin, New Zealand
Died17 August 2015(2015-08-17) (aged 88)
Auckland, New Zealand
Political partyNational
Spouse(s)Esther Mary Fay Levy
RelationsJoanne Gair (daughter)

George Frederick Gair CMG QSO (13 October 1926 – 17 August 2015) was a New Zealand politician. He was once deputy leader of the National Party in the New Zealand Parliament, and was considered by many to be a possible contender for the leadership itself, he was known for his polite and diplomatic style, which often contrasted with the political situation around him – Michael Laws described him as "a refugee from the age of manners."

Early life and family[edit]

Gair was born in Dunedin, but moved to Wellington when young. A graduate of Victoria University and University of Auckland, he worked as a journalist and as a public relations officer, he also became involved in the organisational wing of the National Party, and briefly served on the staff of Keith Holyoake. Gair married Esther Mary Fay Levy in about 1950, and the couple went on to have three children,[1][2] including make-up artist and body painter Joanne Gair.[3]

Member of Parliament[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1966–1969 35th North Shore National
1969–1972 36th North Shore National
1972–1975 37th North Shore National
1975–1978 38th North Shore National
1978–1981 39th North Shore National
1981–1984 40th North Shore National
1984–1987 41st North Shore National
1987–1990 42nd North Shore National

Gair first stood for the National Party nomination for the Remuera electorate in the 1966 election, losing the nomination to Allan Highet. Gair then went across the bridge and contested and won the North Shore nomination from retiring National MP Dean Eyre, he was successful, and was elected to Parliament that year.[4]

Cabinet minister[edit]

In Parliament, Gair came to be regarded as a competent and diligent administrator, he briefly became Minister of Customs in 1972[5][6] at the end of the Second National government, but this was interrupted when National lost the 1972 election to the Labour Party under Norman Kirk. When National was returned to power in the 1975 election, Gair was returned to cabinet in the Third National government. Between that time and National's defeat in the 1984 election, Gair held a number of challenging portfolios, including serving as Minister of Health and Minister of Social Welfare, he also served as Minister of Housing, Minister of Energy, Minister of Transport, Minister of Railways and a number of other roles.

Political views[edit]

Gair also distinguished himself for some of his personal views. Gair, although a member of the country's main conservative party, generally adopted a "live and let live" approach to social and moral issues, rejecting what he saw as "intolerance" in some of his colleagues; these beliefs were especially noticeable when, in the late 1970s, Gair opposed measures to restrict abortion. Barry Gustafson, in his history of the National Party, called Gair "the most effective strategist of the parliamentary pro-abortion lobby".

Gair's support of abortion earned him the hostility of many National Party colleagues, including that of the party's leader, Robert Muldoon. Muldoon was already somewhat distrustful of Gair, as Gair had occasionally been spoken of as an alternative party leader; the political styles of Muldoon and Gair were radically different – Muldoon had a reputation as being tough and confrontational, while Gair was seen as polite and diplomatic. Some members of the party who disliked Muldoon's "dictatorial" style saw Gair as a possible alternative.

Colonels' Coup[edit]

In 1980, when a number of party dissidents began to plot against Muldoon's leadership, Gair was on the list of potential replacements. However, Gair was regarded as too liberal to gain majority support within the party; the dissidents eventually decided to encourage Brian Talboys, the party's deputy leader, to make a leadership bid (now called the "Colonels' Coup"). Gair was not involved in planning this bid, but was supportive of it, and worked hard to convince Talboys that a challenge was a good idea. In the end, however, Talboys bailed out, and the coup collapsed without a vote ever being taken. Gair continued to advocate a challenge, but Talboys was adamant that preserving party unity was more important than curbing Muldoon's damaging leadership style. Later, after Talboys had retired from politics, Gair supported another Muldoon opponent, Derek Quigley, to replace Talboys as deputy leader.

Some time after Muldoon was finally deposed by Jim McLay in 1984, Gair (along with Muldoon ally Bill Birch) was demoted considerably; this was intended to make room for new, younger figures, who McLay hoped would "rejuvenate" the party. The move was highly damaging to McLay, however, as it placed both Gair and Birch directly in opposition to him; as two of the most experienced people in the National Party, the two were able to mobilise substantial support in favour of McLay's main rival, Jim Bolger. Bolger quickly defeated McLay, and Gair himself took the position of deputy leader.

Deputy leader[edit]

Shortly after Gair became deputy leader, he found himself at odds with a number of his colleagues once again; the Homosexual Law Reform Bill, a private bill by Labour's Fran Wilde to lift restrictions on homosexuality, was being hotly debated. Gair was somewhat ambivalent towards the bill, believing that while change was "long overdue", certain aspects of the bill went too far. On 2 July 1986, Gair's vote blocked a motion of closure on the bill, which would have brought it to a vote – because of bad weather, a number of the bill's supporters were unable to be in Parliament that day, and since a few votes could potentially decide the fate of the bill, Gair believed it unfair to let the vote go ahead. Had he voted for closure, the bill would probably have been defeated, and many of the bill's opponents therefore blamed Gair for its subsequent success. One week later, when the vote actually occurred, it passed only by a narrow majority – Gair himself eventually voted in favour. Gair found the entire episode highly stressful, and spoke of his desire for reconciliation.[7][8]

Mayor of North Shore City[edit]

Gair served as the 3rd Mayor of North Shore City from 1995—1998, defeating incumbent Paul Titchener.[9]

Later life and death[edit]

Gair retired from Parliament at the 1990 elections, he later served as the High Commissioner to London. He lived in Northcross on the North Shore.[10]

Gair died on 17 August 2015,[1] his wife, Fay Gair, died in 2018.[2]


Gair was made a Companion of the Queen's Service Order for public services in the 1988 Queen's Birthday Honours.[11] In the 1994 Queen's Birthday Honours, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George.[12]


  1. ^ a b Jones, NIcholas (19 August 2015). "PM pays tribute to former MP and North Shore mayor George Gair". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Fay Gair death notice". New Zealand Herald. 21 March 2018. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  3. ^ Gair, Joanne (14 October 2006). "Big Cat Top Model". Archived from the original on 15 May 2010. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  4. ^ "Members of the House of Representatives Elected-General Election" (15 January 1970) 1 New Zealand Gazette 1 at 24.
  5. ^ "Ministers Appointed" (9 February 1972) 12 New Zealand Gazette 253 at 254.
  6. ^ "Members of the Executive Council Appointed" (9 February 1972) 12 New Zealand Gazette 253.
  7. ^ "A Chronicle of Homosexuality in New Zealand". Gay NZ. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  8. ^ "The Night the Bill was Passed". Gay NZ. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  9. ^ "Gair facing new job with gusto". The New Zealand Herald. 16 October 1995. pp. sec.1, p.3.
  10. ^ Gair, George (8 June 2009). "Submission to the Associate Minister of Local Government" (PDF). New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  11. ^ London Gazette (supplement), No. 51367, 11 June 1988. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  12. ^ London Gazette (supplement), No. 53697, 10 June 1994. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
Political offices
Preceded by
Frank Gill
Minister of Health
Succeeded by
Aussie Malcolm
Preceded by
Colin McLachlan
Minister of Railways
Succeeded by
Richard Prebble
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Dean Eyre
Member of Parliament for North Shore
Succeeded by
Bruce Cliffe
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Bryce Harland
High Commissioner of New Zealand to the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
John Collinge