Scientist and 'powerhouse' Maggie Lawton farewelled in Wanaka

Marjorie Cook /

Otago regional councillor and respected scientist Maggie Lawton was farewelled in Wanaka by family and friends on Thursday March 16, 2017.

More than 200 people packed into The Venue on Thursday to hear heartfelt, tearful and funny tributes for the late Margaret Elizabeth "Maggie" Lawton.

The Wanaka politician was a respected forensic scientist and former Government Analyst at DSIR Auckland.

She led the forensic enquiry into the 1985 bombing of the Rainbow Warrior and was later responsible for setting up the world's second DNA databank – the United Kingdom was first – to help solve serious and sexual crimes around the country.

The late Maggie Lawton's family carry her casket from her funeral.

The late Maggie Lawton's family carry her casket from her funeral.

Lawton was born in England on January 11, 1950 and obtained a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry and a PhD in X-ray crystallography before immigrating to New Zealand.

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After Lawton retired from forensic science in the late 1990s, she forged a second career in environmental management, working as senior science manager at Landcare Research for a decade and then as a consultant to local and regional governments.

Otago regional councillor Maggie Lawton, third from left; with fellow councillors Bryan Scott, Graeme Bell, Doug Brown, ...

Otago regional councillor Maggie Lawton, third from left; with fellow councillors Bryan Scott, Graeme Bell, Doug Brown, Sam Neill, Stephen Woodhead (chairman), Trevor Kempton, Gretchen Robertson (deputy chairwoman), Michael Deaker, Andrew Noone, Michael Laws, and Carmen Hope.

She was elected an Otago regional councillor in the Dunstan ward in October 2016 and died on March 13 after a short battle with cancer.

Lawton was a frequent visitor to Wanaka before moving permanently to town about four years ago.

Family friend and skiing buddy Peter Donoghue said the diminutive mother of four children – Katrine Gellatly, Hayley Coleman, Ella Lawton and the late Robbie Lawton – was dedicated, committed and courageous.

Wanakapella and the Treble Tones sing a tribute to the late Maggie Lawton at Lawton's funeral.

Wanakapella and the Treble Tones sing a tribute to the late Maggie Lawton at Lawton's funeral.

She was a "powerhouse of motherhood, a mountain of support, a great lake of influence and a mighty river of encouragement"; was "gone unreasonably soon", and those who loved her were "furious at the interruption", Donoghue said.

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Scientist and colleagues described a multi-faceted woman with an impressive court room manner but non-controversial manner.

They were "gobsmacked" when Lawton resigned from DSIR but impressed with how capably she moved into her new fields.

Lawton's recent work history included founding the Queenstown Lakes District Council's Shaping Our Futures panel and the Alpine Lakes Research and Education Centre.

She was a Wanaka Wastebusters board member, a member of the Lake Wanaka Trust and the Upper Clutha Water Group.

Previously, she held roles Environment Southland and Development Auckland. She also operated her own consultancy, Future By Design.

 - Stuff


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