Sir Mad, the Gov-General

16:00, Oct 02 2010
Sir Peter Leitch with his daughter Angela.

FANS OF New Zealand becoming a republic appear to have accepted they are not getting their way, and have switched their attention to choosing the governor-general.

In an open letter to Prime Minister John Key, Republican Movement chairman Lewis Holden has put forward a list of 14 people who might be suitable, ranging from the Mad Butcher, Sir Peter Leitch, to Lieutenant-General Jerry Mateparae, the Defence Force head.

Holden told Key that since the PM would soon be sending the Queen his nomination to replace Sir Anand Satyanand next August, it was timely to promote the movement's belief that nominations should be open to the public – with the nominee subject to approval of 75% of MPs and a majority of party leaders.

"Even if a republic is not inevitable, this change will clarify the conventions around the appointment of the governor-general," he said.

Holden claimed the opposition leader was meant to be consulted but that "appears to have rarely been the case since prime ministers began appointing New Zealanders in 1967".

The government has passed legislation to ensure Electoral Commission members are appointed by parliament, and the ombudsmen and auditor-general are appointed by the House, and Holden said there was no reason why a governor-general could not be nominated the same way.


"That is why we propose a super super-majority. Over the last few months 1200 New Zealanders have put forward their nominations through our website. We will shortly publish a list of the top 10 nominees.

"We urge you to allow the House of Representatives to debate these nominees, to further our constitutional evolution by putting the nomination to a resolution of the House," Holden said.

The 2010 New Zealander of the Year Ray Avery, who made his name working in medicine in the Third World, is at No1 on the list of proposed candidates.

Politicians are also there, including former Prime Minister Jim Bolger, the Greens' Jeanette Fitzsimons, Sir Don McKinnon and Sir Geoffrey Palmer. Justice Sir Eddie Durie makes the list alongside former Oxford University Vice-Chancellor John Hood and Dame Anne Salmond, who did the same job at Auckland University.

Leitch said he had a bit of a time on his hands since retiring but was still probably a bit busy raising money for the many charities he supports.

"To be fair, I have been known to swear once or twice, though I'm getting very good now, so I mightn't be the flashest bloke you could put in the job. I bet I'd be the first ever governor-general with tattoos, that's for sure."

Leitch said he was a great supporter of Satyanand. "He is a first-class bloke who does a lot of good work that we never hear anything about, like I know he is patron of Surf Life Saving New Zealand, and where would we be without them?

"Actually, I was at his place the other week to get knighted. Government House is nice and it comes with the job, so you'd have to be pleased with that, but I just moved myself not that long ago and my place has sea views. And where would I put the barbecue?"

He was flattered to even be on the list but said he'd be terrified of the aides who serve the governor-general, and that his wife, Lady Satyanand probably "spend all day making them cups of tea".

"Mind you, I'd be a better choice than Jerry because he'd be the general governor-general and that's just getting out of hand."


The Republican Movement received more than 1200 nominations for the office of governor-general.

The top 10 were:

Ray Avery: 2010 New Zealander of the Year, a scientist whose work has enhanced the lives of many in third-world countries through his low-cost healthcare inventions.

Jim Bolger: Prime minister 1990-97. Taranaki-born Bolger oversaw the introduction of MMP and radical economic and social changes.

Justice Sir Eddie Durie: The first Maori appointed to the high court. He was chief judge of the Maori Land Court 1980-98 and Waitangi Tribunal chair 1980-2004.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Co-leader of the Green Party 1995-2010. An MP from 1996-2010.

John Hood: A Rhodes Scholar, Oxford vice-chancellor 2004-09.

Sir Peter Leitch: Known as the Mad Butcher and famous for his charity work and support of sport. Pictured above with daughter Angela.

Lieutenant-General Jerry Mateparae: Current Defence Force chief. First Maori appointed to position in 2006.

Sir Don McKinnon: Commonwealth secretary-general 1999-2009, minister of foreign affairs 1990-99 and deputy prime minister 1990-96.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer: Prime minister 1989-90 and deputy prime minister 1984-89. Currently Law Commission president.

Dame Anne Salmond: Noted historian who is a member of the British Royal Society and was pro-chancellor of the Auckland University 1997-2006.

Sunday Star Times