Obituary: Sir Norman Perry

By Arnold Pickmere

Sir Norman Perry. Church leader, businessman, adviser. Died aged 92.

Sir (David) Norman Perry served with the Maori Battalion, was a leader of the Presbyterian Church and was once asked to stand for the Eastern Maori parliamentary electorate.

Hardly surprising therefore that he was knighted in 1977 for services to the community and to the Maori people. Not surprising either that some people, hearing of his Maori connections, including those with Sir Apirana Ngata in tribal affairs from 1938 to 1950, have assumed that Sir Norman was himself a Maori.

He was a European, described in Who's Who as a company secretary and director. But he was approached in 1972 by a small but significant section of the Eastern Maori parliamentary electorate community to stand for the seat.

He declined saying he appreciated the gesture adding that "failing more obvious support for Maori candidates in Pakeha constituencies, Maori seats should be contested by the able Maori candidates who are available to stand for them".

Born in Gisborne, but living much of his life in Opotiki, Norman Perry was active in church and Maori affairs for most of his life. He was described by the Presbyterian Church this week as "an enthusiastic and humble man" who generated ideas and worked at enlisting people to make them happen.

He became chairman and director of several rural industries and Maori co-operatives in the Bay of Plenty region. He was associated with Sir Apirana Ngata in tribal work, becoming interested in the decentralisation of industry, an idea favoured by Ngata who encouraged dairy farming and the like.

Perry was involved with a garment manufacturing plant in Opotiki to employ and train Maori people.

During World War II Perry was with the Maori Battalion in Italy, the YMCA secretary attached to them until he was wounded in 1944.

Back home he was secretary for seven years of the Te Kaha Co-operative Dairy Company, which had Maori Battalion representation in its management and directors and which, in 1956, produced an attractive calendar for suppliers including fishing and planting times related to the phases of the moon.

The Presbyterian Church this week described him as one of the most significant and recognised lay leaders in its history. He was deeply involved in the Maori Synod, the New Life Movement from 1955-70, and was elected as only the third lay [not ordained] Moderator of the church's General Assembly in 1964.

Sir Norman Perry was predeceased by his wife Phyllis [Conway], whom he married in 1939, and is survived by family including two sons and three daughters.

A service was held at Te Maungarongo Marae, Ohope, last Sunday followed by tangi and karakia at Tutawake Marae, Whitianga, East Opotiki, last Monday and interment in the Hapu Urupa. A service celebrating his life will be held in Auckland today at 1pm at St David's Presbyterian Church, Khyber Pass.

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