64 | Dame Catherine Tizard Greatest Kiwi of All Time 2023

64 | Dame Catherine Tizard Greatest Kiwi of All Time 2023

Greatest Kiwi Of All Time: No. 64 - Dame Catherine Tizard (Down 8 from 58 last year)

We’d had our first kiwi-born Governor General.  We’d had our first Māori Governor General.  But it wasn’t until 1990 we’d have our first female Governor General.  And she was a force of nature - Dame Catherine Tizard.

Catherine McLean was born in Auckland in 1931 to Scottish immigrants, however she grew up in rural Waikato where her dad worked at the local dairy factory.  While at University in Auckland, she met aspiring politician and president of the students association Bob Tizard.  They would marry in 1951.

Elected to Auckland City Council in 1971, Cath would run for the Mayoralty against an ageing Dove-Myer Robinson in 1980, but lose.  She was back three years later and, in 1983, became the first female mayor of the City of Sails.

She would go on to be one of Auckland’s favourite mayors.  She would shepard in a new centre for Auckland, based next to the town hall - the Aotea Centre.  In 1984, Tizard would help secure the Commonwealth Games for Tāmaki Makaurau.  Serving three terms, she would still be mayor when the Games came around at the turn of the decade.

Tizard would also appear regularly on Beauty & The Beast, a popular afternoon chat show hosted by Selwyn Toogood - she was a beauty, Selwyn was the beast by the way.

Then, in 1989, prime minister Geoffrey Palmer asked Tizard whether she would consider becoming governor general.  She wasn’t sure, it was something she had to check with her family.

She would end the practice of bowing to the governor general, saying “no New Zealander should have to bow to another”.  One day a particular piece of legislation required her signature that she was not keen on one bit.  After discussing her concerns with officials, she said she would sign the document “but only in black ink”.

While later coming out in favour of a republic, Tizard, who was knighted in 1985, had a enjoyable relationship with The Queen.

We would lose Dame Cath in 2021 following a long illness.  She was ninety years old.  A politician, statesman, proud New Zealander and awesome human being you would love to have a sneaky gin with.  Dame Cath Tizard, one of Today FM’s Greatest Kiwi’s of All Time.