George Gair
George Frederick Gair, CMG
Order of St Michael and St George
The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III....

Queen's Service Order
The Queen's Service Order was established by Queen Elizabeth II on 13 March 1975, awarded by the government of New Zealand "for valuable voluntary service to the community or meritorious and faithful services to the Crown or similar services within the public sector, whether in elected or...

 (born 13 October 1926) is a former New Zealand politician. He was once deputy leader of the National Party
New Zealand National Party
The New Zealand National Party is the largest party in the New Zealand House of Representatives and in November 2008 formed a minority government with support from three minor parties.-Policies:...

 in the Parliament of New Zealand
Parliament of New Zealand
The Parliament of New Zealand consists of the Queen of New Zealand and the New Zealand House of Representatives and, until 1951, the New Zealand Legislative Council. The House of Representatives is often referred to as "Parliament".The House of Representatives usually consists of 120 Members of...

, 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
Michael Laws
Michael Laws is a New Zealand politician, broadcaster and writer/columnist. He served two terms as a Member of the New Zealand Parliament, representing the National Party and New Zealand First . He was elected as Mayor of Wanganui in 2004, was re-elected in 2007 but announced his retirement from...

 described him as "a refugee from the age of manners." He is the father of Joanne Gair
Joanne Gair
Joanne "Kiwi Jo" or "Kiwi Joe" Gair is a New Zealand-born and raised make-up artist and body painter whose body paintings have been featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue from 1999 to the 2011 edition...


Early life

Gair was born in Dunedin
Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal city of the Otago Region. It is considered to be one of the four main urban centres of New Zealand for historic, cultural, and geographic reasons. Dunedin was the largest city by territorial land area until...

, but moved to Wellington
Wellington is the capital city and third most populous urban area of New Zealand, although it is likely to have surpassed Christchurch due to the exodus following the Canterbury Earthquake. It is at the southwestern tip of the North Island, between Cook Strait and the Rimutaka Range...

 when young. A graduate of Victoria University
Victoria University of Wellington
Victoria University of Wellington was established in 1897 by Act of Parliament, and was a former constituent college of the University of New Zealand. It is particularly well known for its programmes in law, the humanities, and some scientific disciplines, but offers a broad range of other courses...

 and University of Auckland
University of Auckland
The University of Auckland is a university located in Auckland, New Zealand. It is the largest university in the country and the highest ranked in the 2011 QS World University Rankings, having been ranked worldwide...

, he worked as a journalist and as a public relations
Public relations
Public relations is the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc....

 officer. He also became involved in the organisational wing of the National Party, and briefly served on the staff of Keith Holyoake
Keith Holyoake
Sir Keith Jacka Holyoake, KG, GCMG, CH, QSO, KStJ was a New Zealand politician. The only person to have been both Prime Minister and Governor-General of New Zealand, Holyoake was National Party Prime Minister from 20 September 1957 to 12 December 1957, then again from 12 December 1960 to 7...


Member of Parliament

Gair first stood for the National Party nomination for the Remuera
Remuera (New Zealand electorate)
Remuera is a former New Zealand Parliamentary electorate, in the city of Auckland.-Population Centres:The electorate is urban, and comprises a number of Auckland suburbs. The area is high-income, and has been represented by a succession of National MPs....

 electorate in the 1966 elections
New Zealand general election, 1966
The 1966 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 35th term. It saw the governing National Party win a third consecutive term in office...

, losing the nomination to Allan Highet
Allan Highet
David Allan Highet QSO was a New Zealand politician. He was an MP from 1966 to 1984, representing the National Party for Remuera, holding the then largest majorities in the House.-Early life and family:...

. Gair then went across the bridge and contested and won the North Shore
North Shore (New Zealand electorate)
North Shore is a New Zealand Parliamentary electorate returning one Member of Parliament to the New Zealand House of Representatives. The current MP for North Shore is Wayne Mapp MP of the National Party...

 nomination from retiring National MP Dean Eyre
Dean Eyre
Dean Jack Eyre was a New Zealand politician of the National Party.He served as a cabinet minister, first under Sydney Holland as Minister of Customs, Defence, Housing and Industries & Commerce; then under Keith Holyoake as Minister of Defence, Police and Tourism...

. He was successful, and was elected to Parliament that year.

Cabinet minister

In Parliament, Gair came to be regarded as a competent and diligent administrator. He briefly became Minister of Customs in 1972 at the end of the Second National government
Second National Government of New Zealand
The Second National Government of New Zealand was the government of New Zealand from 1960 to 1972. It was a conservative government which sought mainly to preserve the economic prosperity and general stability of the early 1960s...

, but this was interrupted when National lost the 1972 elections
New Zealand general election, 1972
The New Zealand general election of 1972 was held to elect MPs to the 37th session of the New Zealand Parliament. The Labour Party, led by Norman Kirk, defeated the governing National Party.-Background:...

 to the Labour Party
New Zealand Labour Party
The New Zealand Labour Party is a New Zealand political party. It describes itself as centre-left and socially progressive and has been one of the two primary parties of New Zealand politics since 1935....

 under Norman Kirk
Norman Kirk
Norman Eric Kirk was the 29th Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1972 until his sudden death in 1974. He led the Parliamentary wing of the New Zealand Labour Party from 1965 to 1974. He was the fourth Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand, but the first to be born in New Zealand...

. When National was returned to power in the 1975 elections
New Zealand general election, 1975
The 1975 New Zealand general election was held to elect MPs to the 38th session of the New Zealand Parliament. It was the first election in New Zealand where 18-20 year olds and all permanent residents of New Zealand were eligible to vote, although only citizens were able to be...

, Gair was returned to cabinet in the Third National government
Third National Government of New Zealand
The Third National Government of New Zealand was the government of New Zealand from 1975 to 1984. It was an economically and socially conservative government, which aimed to preserve the Keynesian economic system established by the First Labour government while also being socially conservative...

. Between that time and National's defeat in the 1984 elections
New Zealand general election, 1984
The 1984 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the 41st New Zealand Parliament. It marked the beginning of the Fourth Labour Government, with David Lange's Labour Party defeating long-serving Prime Minister Robert Muldoon of the National Party. It was also the...

, 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
Minister of Railways (New Zealand)
The Minister of Railways was the minister in the government responsible for the New Zealand Railways Department 1895–1981, the New Zealand Railways Corporation 1981–1993, and New Zealand Rail Limited 1990–1993...

 and a number of other roles.

Political views

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
Robert Muldoon
Sir Robert David "Rob" Muldoon, GCMG, CH served as the 31st Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1975 to 1984, as leader of the governing National Party. Muldoon had been a prominent member of the National party and MP for the Tamaki electorate for some years prior to becoming leader of the party...

. 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

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
Brian Talboys
Sir Brian Edward Talboys, CH, KCB, AC, is a former New Zealand politician. He served as Deputy Prime Minister for the first two terms of Robert Muldoon's premiership. If the abortive "Colonels' Coup" against Muldoon had been successful, Talboys would have become Prime Minister himself.-Early...

, 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
Derek Quigley
Derek Francis Quigley, QSO is a former New Zealand politician. He was a prominent member of the National Party during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and was known for his support of free market economics and trade liberalization...

, to replace Talboys as deputy leader.

Some time after Muldoon was finally deposed by Jim McLay
Jim McLay
James Kenneth McLay, CNZM, QSO , generally known as Jim McLay, is a former New Zealand politician. He was Deputy Prime Minister, leader of the National Party and Leader of the Opposition for a short time. McLay is currently New Zealand's Permanent Representative to the United Nations.-Early...

 in 1984, Gair (along with Muldoon ally Bill Birch
Bill Birch
Sir William Francis Birch, GNZM , usually known as Bill Birch, is a former New Zealand politician. He served as Minister of Finance for several years in the fourth National government.-Early life:...

) 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
Jim Bolger
James Brendan "Jim" Bolger, ONZ was the 35th Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1990 to 1997. Bolger was elected on the promise of delivering a "Decent Society" following the previous Labour government's economic reforms, known as Rogernomics...

. Bolger quickly defeated McLay, and Gair himself took the position of deputy leader.

Deputy leader

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
Fran Wilde
The Honorable Fran Wilde QSO , is a New Zealand politician, and former Wellington Labour MP, Minister of Tourism and 31st Mayor of Wellington...

 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.

Mayor of North Shore

Gair served as the 3rd Mayor of North Shore
Mayor of North Shore
The Mayor of North Shore was the head of the municipal government of North Shore City, New Zealand, from 1989 to 2010, and presided over the North Shore City Council with 15 councillors. The mayor was directly elected using a first-past-the-post electoral system. The councillors were elected from...

 City from 1995—1998, defeating incumbent Paul Titchener.

Later life

Gair retired from Parliament at the 1990 elections
New Zealand general election, 1990
The 1990 New Zealand general election was held on 27 October to determine the composition of the 43rd New Zealand parliament. The governing Labour Party was defeated, ending its controversial two terms in office...

. He later served as the High Commissioner to London. He lives in Northcross
Northcross, New Zealand
Northcross is a suburb of North Shore, one of several cities in the Auckland metropolitan area in northern New Zealand. It is located on the north shore of the Waitemata Harbour....

on the North Shore.
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