There will be many tributes paid to Michael Oliver over the next few days.
A Geraldine ward member on the Timaru District Council since 2001, 10 years on the Geraldine community board before that, and appointed deputy mayor in 2004. Michael died suddenly on Friday night.
His presence around the council table will be missed, and at just 59, Michael would have had much more to offer.
He was an astute and able councillor, with a remarkable ability to digest huge quantities of information, grasp the key points, and find a way forward. His contribution to debates was always considered, and he argued the point, not the person.
Michael was a councillor who seemed to be there for all the right reasons; because he had something to offer, and believed in doing something for the community. He was not a "photo opportunity" politician, preferring to just get on with the job. It is likely that much of what he did for the Geraldine area, and, for the wider district, happened under the radar.
His appointment in 2004 to the board of Aoraki Development Business and Tourism (and its predecessor boards) and a year later to the council's holding company, Timaru District Holdings Ltd, recognised his ability.
His roles around the council table itself also displayed his strengths. He chaired the district services committee for eight years; steering his fellow councillors through weighty agendas of reports involving multimillion-dollar roading, sewerage and water projects. Those skills also came into play as chairman of the council's hearings committee; once again, processing the reams of information that tend to accompany consent applications.
His death means Geraldine has lost a very capable councillor; one who was loyal to his ward, but also able to recognise the big picture of councillors working together for the benefit of the entire Timaru district.
Councillors have already begun to pay their respects, describing Michael as a pleasure to work with, and a real gentleman in every sense of the word; a highly respected councillor, consistently respectful and considerate.
But, as the council's chief executive, Peter Nixon, has said, while Michael will be sadly missed in local government circles, the loss to his widow, Robyn, and her family is far greater. Hopefully the tributes will give some comfort, showing just how highly regarded he was.
- © Fairfax NZ News