Moving service for deputy mayor

21:10, Feb 24 2013
Michael Oliver's funeral
SEND OFF: Squash players salute fellow player Michael Oliver, who was also Timaru’s deputy mayor, as his casket leaves the funeral at the Geraldine High School yesterday.

Michael Oliver's funeral was not a time for sadness, but an occasion to celebrate the life of Timaru's deputy mayor, family man, sportsman, car enthusiast and strong supporter of Geraldine - "a man who died 40 years too soon".

Mr Oliver's last day had been perfect for what he had achieved last Friday, wife Robyn told close to 500 people at his funeral held in the Geraldine High School Hall yesterday.

Old friends had stayed with the couple the previous night, and they had spent Friday morning travelling around the Geraldine area before they all had lunch in Geraldine.

Mr Oliver, 59, a keen squash player, died while competing in the Mid-Canterbury interclub finals at Methven.

He died of a mitral valve prolapse, which Mrs Oliver said would not have been survivable even if it had happened in hospital.

What she also knew was that, if he had not died at squash, he would have died while walking the Inca trail in Peru, a trip the pair were due to make next month.


She spoke of his love of council work even though he hated council meetings.

He had a passion for Geraldine and Geraldine people, and was proud of the way they were always so involved in having their voice heard by council.

At his last council meeting, councillors opted to vote for 10 councillors at large at next year's election, effectively doing away with wards.

Mr Oliver opposed it, and Mrs Oliver urged Geraldine people to put in submissions and let their voices be heard against the at-large voting option.

His love of fast cars was mentioned by several speakers - a passion he had right from the time he was a member of the Geraldine High School Car Club and ran a car trial which saw most of the competitors get lost.

"He sounds like a bit of a larrikin," car enthusiast and former Timaru District Council chief executive Warwick Isaacs quipped as he talked about the man with a "curious and active mind" who had come on to the council in 2001, around the same time as he came to Timaru.

Mr Isaacs spoke of the "rational, practical decisions" Mr Oliver came up with as a councillor.

"He came from a strong business background and those skills were put to good use," Mr Isaacs said.

As well as being deputy mayor since 2004, he joined Aoraki Development and Tourism's board that same year, and was appointed director of the council's holding company in 2005.

"He was a relationship builder," Mr Isaacs said, adding people took notice when Mr Oliver spoke. While Mr Oliver had made a huge contribution to his local community he had the interests of the whole district at heart, Mr Isaacs commented.

Both men had a passion for high-performance vehicles and would often discuss the merits of various makes and models. He spoke of Porsche events they went to, and of feeling slightly apprehensive as Mr Oliver drove a Porsche 911S around a 60kmh corner at more than twice the recommended speed, of the backend fishtailing, and Mr Oliver remarking: "The car handled pretty well really, didn't it?"

"He had a good life," Mr Isaacs said.


Other speakers, representing family, friends, squash, his school and university years, described Michael Oliver as: Quick-witted. Having a dry sense of humour. An unflappable gentleman. Respected by all. Astute and articulate. Competitive (in sport), but a fair and honest player. One of life's good buggers.

The Timaru Herald