District mourns deputy mayor
Tributes have been flowing for Timaru District Deputy Mayor Michael Oliver who died suddenly on Friday night.
He was playing squash in Methven when he is believed to have suffered a heart attack and died at the scene.
Mr Oliver, 59, was first elected to the Geraldine Community Board in February 1991 and the Timaru District Council in 2001 representing the Geraldine ward. He had been the deputy mayor and chairman of the district services committee since 2004.
He grew up on a farm on the banks of the Rangitata and was educated in Geraldine before completing a bachelor of commerce degree at Canterbury University.
He returned to the family farm, and with his wife, Robyn, and two children, Craig and Jackie, farmed there for 20 years, before moving to the outskirts of Geraldine. He also had a contracting business and lately had a rural mail run.
Timaru District Mayor Janie Annear was shattered by the sudden loss.
"I feel so deeply for Robyn and Michael's family, I know that he loved them all so very much.
"Michael cared deeply for Geraldine and our district and was one of the hardest working councillors I have known.
"He was intelligent, articulate, a clear and effective thinker with strong business skills, always professional and always supportive of me as the mayor and other councillors.
"We all respected him for his balance and integrity. Michael was one of life's gentlemen and one of the nicest men I have ever met. I have valued his friendship of the last 11 years greatly and he was the perfect deputy mayor."
Council chief executive Peter Nixon paid tribute to Mr Oliver's intellect.
"Although I have known Michael since 1991, I got to know him much better in the last few months, and that reinforced my view that he was a very special man.
"I always valued his calm rational approach to matters and his intellectual ability to absorb an awful lot of written material and identify the important issues. He will be sadly missed in local government circles but we acknowledge that for Robyn and her family the loss is far greater, and our thoughts are with them."
Mr Nixon said legislation required a by-election be held to fill the vacancy.
Geraldine Community Board chairwoman Rosie Morten said Mr Oliver would be desperately missed. "He was totally reliable and everybody valued his opinion. On a personal level I will miss him and I will desperately miss working with him but he will also be missed on a community level as he did so much."
Her husband, Ian, also paid tribute to Mr Oliver's role in irrigation.
"He was instrumental in Rangitata South irrigation. I had huge respect for the work he did as councillor. He didn't court publicity but Timaru was fortunate to have a very logical councillor with a lot of business acumen."
South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce president Tony Howey praised a champion for the district.
"Michael Oliver's untimely passing will be such a loss in so many ways. He was such a champion for our district and such a wise and personable individual. He was very astute and always calm in his approach with people and issues. Sometimes we don't appreciate the true value of people who serve our community till they are no longer with us. We have lost one of South Canterbury's best."
Geraldine's Sue Payne said he had been instrumental in getting defibrillators around Geraldine, with nine rolled out in the district.
A service for Mr Oliver will be held at the Geraldine High School Hall at 11.30am on Thursday, followed by burial at the Arundel Cemetery.
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