Long record of public service
KATHERINE VICTORIA O’REGAN QSO
Katherine O'Regan was born to Nettie and Jack Newton at Te Mata on May 24, 1946. She passed away on Wednesday, May 2, aged 71. She has been a long-time Te Awamutu and district resident, serving as both a local and central government politician.
Last year she was inducted into the Te Awamutu Walk of Fame — recognising a lifetime of achievements and service to the people of New Zealand.
In 1977 she was the first woman elected to Waipa County Council, serving for eight years. She was elected to Parliament in 1984 as a National MP for Waipa, succeeding her friend and former boss Marilyn Waring, and was part of the opposition for two terms.
In 1990 she was part of the fourth National Government and was appointed Minister of Consumer Affairs, plus Associate Ministers of Health, Social Welfare and Women's Affairs. In 1994 Katherine led the New Zealand Delegation to the UN Population and Development Conference in Cairo and also gave the Second Country Report to CEDAW at the UN in New York.
A supporter of human rights, as Associate Minister of Health she amended the Human Rights Act to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and having organisms in the body which might cause disease. Minister of Youth Affairs was added to her portfolio briefly before the 1996 election.
A reshuffle of electorates resulted in the Waipa seat being abolished, so in 1996 Katherine stood for Tauranga against Winston Peters, and although she did not win the seat, she was returned to Parliament as a list member in opposition. She was the chairwoman of the Internal Affairs Select Committee during that term.
In 1999 she again stood for Tauranga and came close to unseating the now deputy prime minister. Following the election Katherine retired from politics, but not from public service.
She was a Justice of the Peace, served on the Family Planning New Zealand Council, was chairwoman of the Human Ethics in Research Committee at Wintec, a member of the NZ Law Society Waikato/Bay of Plenty Complaints Committee and involved in numerous community organisations, such as NZ Plunket Society, Speld and Hamilton Speech Therapy Association.
Closer to home, she chaired the Te Awamutu Community Public Relations Association and was a founding member of the Te Awamutu Community Health Transport service. In 2002, Katherine was deservedly made a Companion of the Queen's Service Order for public services.
Katherine is survived by her second husband, Michael Cox, two children, Andrew and Susan, and their spouses, and seven grandchildren and stepgrandchildren.
Katherine O'Regan at her home in 2002 when she was made a Companion of the Queen's Service Order.