Bob Parker knighted – well deserved

Glenn Conway reminds us of the steady hand that exuded calm and gravitas during one of our nation’s  darkest days

The man who led Christchurch through its life-changing earthquakes has been knighted.

Former Christchurch mayor Sir Bob Parker is the highest honoured Cantabrian in the 2014 New Year’s Honours, receiving a Knights Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to local body affairs and the community…

…Parker said the honour was ”amazingly humbling” and unexpected.

”I’m very conscious of the people I had the privilege of working alongside in those dark days. This (honour) is very much a team thing and I’m very privileged to carry this honour.’

‘Standout moments in his career included working with Ngai Tahu, especially Onuku Rununga and returning the sacred land at Takapuneke back to its control.

The successful ”Share An Idea” campaign, which won the council an international award, was also a highlight. Parker paid tribute to his wife, Jo, who will be known as Lady Parker.

She joked: ”Bob is the only man who could make me a lady.”

The honour focuses on Parker’s 22-year-local body career and his leadership skills after the earthquakes which attracted worldwide attention

Parker’s talents as a TV presenter allowed him to give Christchurch a calm and collected front as aftershock after aftershock kept eroding people’s nerves.  

Controversy was never far away from Parker’s first term with the $3million purchase of the Ellerslie Flower Show naming rights, the failed plans for a Conservatorium of Music at the Christchurch Arts Centre and the council’s perceived $17m bailout of developer David Henderson when the council bought several of his inner-city properties.

His strong ties to controversial chief executive Tony Marryatt also polarised many and Parker was facing a serious fight for political survival at the 2010 local body elections when veteran MP Jim Anderton dominated all polls and appeared to be cruising to a comfortable win.

Then came September 4 and its 7.1 magnitude earthquake which overhauled the region and the mayoralty contest.

Parker’s calm demeanour in the aftermath was made for television – his old stomping ground – and voters responded, handing him a solid win.

Sadly, his comforting presence was needed again when the February 2011 earthquake struck.

Parker’s leadership was again well received, but the shine soon faded and Parker’s performance as mayor and his divided council again saw his popularity wane.

Some people are natural crisis managers, but they suck at the day-to-day stuff.  Either way, Sir Bob has earned this one, and showed the unusual grace to bow out when his time was up.

I wonder if he will start paying his bills now.

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