Bob Parker knighted

GLENN CONWAY
Last updated 05:00 31/12/2013
Daniel Tobin

Sir Bob Parker reflects on his career with reporter Glenn Conway

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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.

Nationally, Trelise Cooper and Alison Paterson have been made Dame Companions of the Order.

Maori educationist Dr Noble Curtis, former Anglican Archbishop of Waikato David Moxon and thoroughbred horse breeder Peter Vela join Parker as Knights of the Order.

It is a bittersweet moment for Parker, whose father, Bob, is gravely ill.

''My dad is very unwell and I know this will mean a great deal to him.

"For a son who loves his father, that's a nice thing to be able to do.''

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, with some commentators likening him to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani his actions after the 9/11 attacks.

The gong caps off a largely forgettable year for Parker who stood down as mayor after two terms, citing exhaustion for his decision to end a two-decade-plus career in local government.

But Parker, complete with his orange jacket, will always be remembered as the mayor whose calming and reassuring voice comforted thousands of panicked and bewildered Cantabrians as they dealt with the series of devastating earthquakes that struck the region.

Parker has had two careers - both in the public eye.

The former broadcaster was a familiar face in New Zealand homes in the 1980s and 1990s and was perhaps best known as the original host of This Is Your Life before entering local politics in the 1990s when he first sat on the Banks Peninsula community board before leading that district as mayor from 2001 to 2006.

When the district amalgamated with Christchurch City, he became the Banks Peninsula representative on the new council before seeking and winning the mayoralty in 2007.

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.

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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.

Like 2010, another MP - this time Lianne Dalziel - presented a stern challenge for the mayoralty in 2013 but Parker chose to leave on his own terms after previously committing to the race. 

* Comments are now closed on this story.

- The Press

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