Trib­utes for stal­wart


The pi­o­neer of mod­ern so­cial work in New Zealand and for­mer Palmer­ston North city coun­cil­lor Merv Han­cock died on Satur­day.

His con­tri­bu­tion to the city and its community work­ers was hon­oured in 2012 with the nam­ing of Han­cock Community House, home to some 15 vol­un­tary agen­cies.

Han­cock was born in Palmer­ston North, and spent most of his adult life in the city from 1960.

An his­to­rian and for­mer child wel­fare of­fi­cer, he was the first pres­i­dent of the New Zealand As­so­ci­a­tion of So­cial Work­ers and was ap­pointed to run the first New Zealand un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in So­cial Work at Massey Univer­sity in 1975.

He ran his own re­la­tion­ship coun­selling ser­vice, and was in­stru­men­tal in the cre­ation and de­vel­op­ment of many community groups, in­clud­ing Methodist So­cial Ser­vices, Birthright, Mar­riage Guid­ance, Par­ents’ Cen­tre, Home Bud­get­ing, and the National So­ci­ety on Al­co­hol and Drug Ad­dic­tion.

Han­cock was elected to the city coun­cil in 1983.

For­mer mayor Paul Rieger pro­moted him to the chair­man­ship of fi­nance and eco­nomic com­mit­tee. ‘‘He thought I was jok­ing, and that he had no cred­i­bil­ity in that area,’’ Rieger said.

But Rieger said his vast knowl­edge, an­a­lyt­i­cal skills and de­ci­sion-mak­ing abil­i­ties were su­perb. ‘‘He was an amaz­ing guy.’’ He helped es­tab­lish job cre­ation agency, the En­ter­prise Board, and nur­tured the re­la­tion­ship with Ja­panese in­vestors that led to set­ting up the In­ter­na­tional Pa­cific Col­lege, later IPU.

He stood down from the coun­cil in 1992, and later chaired the community li­ai­son group as­sess­ing fu­ture op­tions for the city’s sewage treat­ment sys­tem.

In 2012, aged 86, Han­cock re­ceived an honorary doc­tor­ate from Massey Univer­sity.

Ear­lier hon­ours in­cluded a QSO in 1989, the Massey Medal in 1999, and a civic award in 2008.

Palmer­ston North Mayor Grant Smith has paid trib­ute to the for­mer coun­cil­lor. ‘‘Merv Han­cock re­ally made a dif­fer­ence to the lives of many. He was a loyal ser­vant to the community of Palmer­ston North and to his coun­try. My own fam­ily knew him well. He was a great man.’’

Han­cock was a de­voted hus­band to Alison, who died in the care of Aro­hanui Hospice in 2008. The cou­ple had three chil­dren, Mary, Michael and Brent.

For­mer Palmer­ston North city coun­cil­lor and Massey Univer­sity so­cial work pi­o­neer Merv Han­cock.

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