Terry Dunleavy at a National Party conference

Terry Dunleavy was one of the political world’s great characters.

He was a lifelong stirrer and was 93 when he died at the weekend.

As a member of the North Shore electorate of the National Party, he caused so much irritation to former North Shore MP, Maggie Barry that the party hierarchy “reassigned” him to the Northcote electorate.

He didn’t last long there either and ended up in the Papakura electorate of Judith Collins, an MP he thoroughly approved of.

More recently, he has been writing a weekly column for the “BFD” website — but he made sure he emailed it out to other media outlets like POLITIK.

A fortnight ago, he revealed that he was in hospital with what seemed an endless list of problems which he was admitting to in public for the first time. But it included a typical Dunleavy reaction to his stay in North Shore Hospital; he claimed it was the best in Auckland – and he’d been in them all.

While was in hospital he was fit enough to launch one of his trademark tirades at Labour defending the hospital.

“Why are these compulsive meddling Marxist central control-freaks in the Labour Party planning to ‘fix’ a system that ain’t ‘broke’, and to divide it unnecessarily on a racist basis by establishing a separate Maori Health Authority – with a veto over what happens elsewhere across the whole health operation?” he wrote.

But his rhetoric was not reserved only for the Labour Party.

This is the last paragraph of his last column, last week.


“Socialist governments all over the world trample all over people’s rights and freedoms. That is what has happened here in New Zealand. However, we have the right to expect the party that claims to honour individual freedom and choice to stand up for those principles on behalf of the country. The fact that our National Party cannot bring itself to do that, in spite of its own core values, proves they are not fit to form a government. They do not deserve to survive this. My prediction is that they will not.”

Dunleavy was born in Te Awamutu in 1928 and educated at Sacred Heart, Auckland.

When he left school after various jobs, he ended up in Pahiatua as a reporter and eventually editor of the North Wairarapa News.

He took those skills to Samoa, where for seven years, he was again editor of a newspaper and also ran a printing company.

His involvement in printing led him via the printing of wine labels to the wine industry, and in 1976 he became the inaugural CEO of the New Zealand Wine Institute, a role he filled for 15 of its most dramatic years during which he put New Zealand wine on the international map.

He and his family then established their own vineyard, Te Motu, on Waiheke Island.

He stood for National in Napier in 1969 but lost, and from then on was a loud and perpetual thorn in the party’s side. He was a climate change sceptic, and though he had many Maori friends and liked to debate the meaning of Maori words, he opposed He Puapua and the Maori sovereignty movement.

A proud Irish-Kiwi, he was irrepressible and a constant reminder that politics ultimately is about passion as much as anything else.

National Party conferences won’t seem the same without him.