Remarkable New Zealander dies

RIP: Datacom co-founder Paul Hargreaves has died after a short illness.
RIP: Datacom co-founder Paul Hargreaves has died after a short illness.

A man behind one of New Zealand's best business success stories has died. 

Paul Hargreaves left a mark on New Zealand few could hope for but many households would not recognise his name. 

Wife Anne Hargreaves said Paul, a cancer survivor, suffered a massive stroke on Monday and despite being told he would not survive the day, he died peacefully on Thursday. 

Hargreaves was best known for his work in the technology and business sector.

He had nothing in his back pocket but a brilliant idea when he and Bernard Battersby risked everything to set up a small computer bureau in Christchurch in the 1960s. That small enterprise grew to become one of New Zealand's great success stories, Datacom - one of the largest locally-owned IT service providers in the Asia-Pacific region. 

While his success in business and technology often took centre stage, Paul's achievements went beyond the boardroom. 

In 1991 he was asked to join the establishment board of the new National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and ended up becoming chief executive. 

These, Anne said, were some of the most meaningful and fulfilling years of his life despite having no background in science. After NIWA, Paul became involved in Antarctica New Zealand and the icy continent became one of his greatest passions. He was appointed chairman in 2003 and among his achievements was the establishment of the Hillary Field Centre, a windfarm at Scott Base and a new research laboratory on Ross Island. 

He even had a 2000 foot mountain, Hargreaves Peak, named after him.

Hargreaves' oldest friend, Michael Horton, said his friend's association with Antarctica started when he was 17, and was chosen as a sea cadet on HMNZS Endeavour to go the continent in 1956 when Scott Base was first established. 

Horton said no-one knew why Paul was chosen, but it set him on a path to some amazing opportunities. 

In 2006, he was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. Doctors said he had no hope of survival.

In true Paul Hargreaves style, however, he signed up for a new drug trial. It worked, paving the way for a surgery which would save his life. Not one to let cancer get in his way, he flew to Antarctica with Sir Edmund Hillary and Helen Clark in 2007 while waiting for his life-saving operation.

It was one of many trips south he made over the years. Anne Hargreaves said Hillary and her husband happened to share a family doctor, who accompanied the men on the flight down. 

''His doctor said, once he camped out on the ice with Paul, he knew he would survive,'' Anne Hargreaves said. He returned to New Zealand for his operation and lived to enjoy another seven years with his friends and family. 

Horton, who will give the eulogy at Hargreaves' funeral on Tuesday, said he had a knack for putting people at ease. ''He was a very well-educated person with an enormous ability to engage with people,'' Horton said.

''He was an elegant fellow who could talk to anyone.''Despite being 75 when he passed, Paul had never really retired. 

In 2006, he was made an Officer of the Order of Merit for services to business and community. He was a board member for Shine (Preventing Violence in the Home), a director of Radio New Zealand and a founder of the Gastro-Intestinal Cancer Institute among many other titles. 

Paul and Anne Hargreaves were married almost 50 years when he passed away this week. He leaves two children, Michael and Penny, and four grandchildren.