Passion for city was admired
A man considered the godfather of Porirua politics died recently and even his former adversaries won’t say a bad word.
John Watson gave years of dedicated, voluntary service to Porirua as a political and environmental activist, philanthropist and community worker.
For many years he was a prolific letter writer to local newspapers on various issues, often taking pot shots at Porirua City Council and councillors over assorted matters.
Watson received a civic award from the council in 2009.
The notation described him as upholding ‘‘principles of honesty, loyalty, honour, accountability and social justice. To many, he has been an inspiration, mentor, friend, and supporter. Intolerant of failure, he has never suffered fools gladly, but always supported someone who tries.’’
Watson’s sense of humour was well enjoyed by anyone he met; even those he found himself up against in local body affairs.
Watson was a foundation member of the Porirua Licensing Trust, the first chairman of that trust and served as chairman and vice chairman from 1957 to 1968.
He served as secretary, president and vice president of the Titahi Bay Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association for more than 20 years and was a member and committee member for nearly 60 years.
He was a long- time Labour Party member and executive until the party policy changes of the 1980s, when he began to be outspoken on Labour’s selection choices for Porirua City Council.
Watson was a long- serving member of the Citizens Advice Bureau, Grey Power and Planetarium, a litter prevention officer and scenic reserve officer for the council and a member of numerous other community, political and social organisations.
Former Porirua mayor John Burke said he and Watson clashed numerous times over the years on different issues.
He can recall faxes ‘‘flying in’’ to him from Watson when he was a licensing trustee and city councillor in the 1970s and 1980s, before Watson eventually graduated to email.
There had been a thawing in relations recently.
‘‘I knew John for well over 40 years,’’ Burke said.
‘‘ He certainly had a way of keeping elected members honest.
‘‘We didn’t see eye to eye now and then and he often got grumpy with me and I with him, but about three years ago he asked me to come to a Hutt Mana Charitable Trust meeting.
‘‘He said some nice words about my service to the trust, which was very nice.’’
Burke said he spoke to Watson a few times a year and always found his comments on Porirua topics constructive and intelligent.
Another former Porirua mayor, Jenny Brash, said she was grateful for Watson’s advice during her tenure.
Watson gave money to her campaign when she ousted Burke in 1998.
‘‘John [Watson] was absolutely passionate about Porirua, he wanted the best for this city,’’ Brash said.
‘‘I valued his thoughts, even if sometimes I didn’t agree with them.
‘‘He was a watchdog and his passing is such a sad thing for Porirua.’’