A life de­fined by en­dur­ing prin­ci­ples

The Dominion Post - - Obituaries - En­vi­ron­ment Court judge b March 16, 1942 d Novem­ber 6, 2108

Gor­don Whit­ing, who has died aged 76, was an En­vi­ron­ment Court judge who also presided over ma­jor boards of in­quiry, in­clud­ing Welling­ton’s Basin Re­serve fly­over in 2014.

He started out as­pir­ing to the priest­hood, but in­stead fol­lowed other paths that led first to eco­nomics and then the study of law. Upon hear­ing of Gor­don’s choice to be­come a lawyer, his fa­ther agreed but urged him to ben­e­fit oth­ers be­fore him­self. ‘‘Gordie’’ made good on that prom­ise.

Robert Gor­don Whit­ing was born in Oa­maru, ed­u­cated at St Kevin’s Col­lege, then Otago Univer­sity, and was a man of many tal­ents and hu­man qual­i­ties.

At St Kevin’s, he was sergeant ma­jor of the school cadet corps, as well as head pre­fect and cap­tain of the First XV. A re­cent col­league on the En­vi­ron­ment Court, then a third for­mer, tells of hav­ing been in awe of him.

As a rugby-play­ing son of the Ir­ish, with a great, some­times lu­bri­cated, tenor voice, he could belt out Phil The Fluther’s Ball with­out miss­ing a line of lyric from that wild song.

Bill Su­grue, a life­long friend in Otago and later North­land, said in his eu­logy that there was no short way to de­scribe the achieve­ments of Gordie Whit­ing. Al­though from dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sions, they en­cour­aged each other in mov­ing to North­land to serve.

There, Gor­don and wife Sue of­ten ex­tended a warm wel­come to join their fam­ily at ta­ble; par­tic­u­larly to younger pro­fes­sion­als, as re­called re­cently by Dis­trict Court Judge Ger­ard Win­ter.

This be­came a fam­ily of four chil­dren, and later their part­ners and 10 grand­chil­dren that now re­flects in­her­ited wis­dom, aroha and dili­gence never schooled but born of good par­ents who are wise, lov­ing, kind, ac­tive, gen­er­ous, joy­ful and well-read.

In Whangarei, Whit­ing played rugby, then turned to ref­er­ee­ing at pro­vin­cial level. He prac­tised crim­i­nal law both as a pros­e­cu­tor and de­fence coun­sel. A let­ter re­ceived from a client of 46 years ago speaks of hav­ing his life sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved by Whit­ing’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion, kind­ness and wis­dom.

He was sworn in as an En­vi­ron­ment Court and Dis­trict Court judge in 1997. His in­tel­lect is recorded in his many sig­nif­i­cant En­vi­ron­ment Court judg­ments.

Whit­ing loved the law, and qui­etly served his com­mu­nity. He lived and was de­fined by en­dur­ing prin­ci­ples that mat­ter. As an ad­vo­cate he de­fended fiercely, pros­e­cuted fairly and gave good coun­sel.

As a man of sar­to­rial el­e­gance, his fash­ion choices of loud ties, coloured shirts and el­e­gant jack­ets re­flected the ever-present twin­kle in his eye and rel­ish for life.

As an en­vi­ron­ment judge and sub­se­quently, he presided over wide-rang­ing cases con­cern­ing such mat­ters as:

❚ Power gen­er­a­tion – hy­dro, geo­ther­mal, gas and wind

❚ In­fra­struc­ture – road­ing and air­ports

❚ Land­fills

❚ Com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial devel­op­ment

❚ Sub­di­vi­sions

❚ Coastal is­sues and sen­si­tive land­scapes

❚ The re­view of re­gional and dis­trict plans

En­vi­ron­ment Court cases fre­quently in­volve ques­tions of com­plex­ity and tech­ni­cal le­gal dif­fi­culty, in­clud­ing con­flicts be­tween the ev­i­dence of ex­pert wit­nesses on tech­ni­cal is­sues.

Some that he presided over for the court, and later on boards of in­quiry, in­cluded con­tentious and im­por­tant mat­ters such as the Ton­gariro Power Devel­op­ment Flood Con­trol Scheme re­con­sent­ing ap­peals, geo­ther­mal power sta­tion ap­peals, the Waikato Ex­press­way Des­ig­na­tion Hamil­ton Sec­tion ap­peals, the well-known King Salmon Board of In­quiry, the equally mem­o­rable Basin Re­serve Board of In­quiry, South Can­ter­bury wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion cases for Can­ter­bury Re­gional Coun­cil, Te Kuha coalmine on the West Coast, and the Rena wreck con­sents in the Bay of Plenty.

He heard and de­ter­mined a num­ber of strate­gi­cally im­por­tant cases on pol­icy in­stru­ments for in­fra­struc­ture and nat­u­ral re­source use, around Lake Taupo¯ and the Waikato River.

His col­leagues in the En­vi­ron­ment Court greatly miss him. He de­vel­oped a love and great skill for en­vi­ron­men­tal law, al­ways en­sur­ing his hear­ings were run with­out ran­cour, where peo­ple could present their cases in their own way. His abil­ity to con­verse in te reo and his re­spect for tikanga were greatly ad­mired.

At his funeral, En­vi­ron­ment Com­mis­sioner Kevin Prime in­canted the per­sonal poro­poroaki (farewell trib­ute) in the panel above. A hum­ble man, Whit­ing would not have ex­pected such trib­utes, nor a packed St Pa­trick’s Cathe­dral in Auck­land. But those present came be­cause each was the bet­ter for know­ing him.

Whit­ing died peace­fully, sur­rounded by his fam­ily. Sur­vivors in­clude wife Sue; chil­dren and part­ners Natasha and Richard, Jeremy and Emilia, Ste­fan and Karen, Kirsty and Richard; and trea­sured grand­chil­dren Finn, Ruby, Kobi, Lucca, Leda, Fran­cisco, Abby, Noah, Char­lie and Florence. – By Prin­ci­pal En­vi­ron­ment Judge Lau­rie Ne­whook

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Gor­don Whit­ing on a site visit dur­ing an En­vi­ron­ment Court hear­ing in Marl­bor­ough in 2009 and, be­low, on the board of in­quiry into the pro­posed Basin Re­serve fly­over in Welling­ton in 2014.

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