NZ First last night announced the death of Tommy Gear, arguably Winston Peters’ closest confidante inside the party.
Gear, a successful Tauranga businessman, was also the uncle of NZ First MP Fletcher Tabuteau.
Like Peters, he was usually in a sharp suit and often drove him around the Bay of Plenty in his succession of Mercedes cars.
But at conferences and during campaigns, Gear was often the last person he spoke to before his speeches and equally often the first to lead him away after the speech.
Tabuteau said Gear was a major part of the foundation for building New Zealand First, “a true stalwart of the party, and has been the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ most trusted advisor for 26 years.”
“He passed away peacefully on Saturday after an extended and valiant battle,” said Tabuteau.
He was unable to accompany Peters on the last election campaign because of heart surgery.
But he seemed in good spirits at the party’s annual conference in Tauranga last September.
“Tommy Gear has been a trusted confidant, loyal, honest, and passionate New Zealand First supporter and member who strongly believed in the party’s core principles,” Tabuteau said.
“Tommy Gear was amongst many things, a successful businessman who contributed so much to many lives.
“I extend my sincerest condolences and aroha to Tommy Gear’s wife Mary, his children, extended family, friends, and the many people who will be feeling his loss right now.
“I hope that you will all find some peace in the legacy that Tommy leaves behind; that of a great husband and father, for the pillar of strength he provided to New Zealand First, and for the pivotal role he played in shaping New Zealand’s political history.”
Peters was on route to Scandinavia for a week-long trip, but he will undoubtedly feel this loss keenly.