Late ex-mayoress battled for civic beauty

By Mathew Dearnaley

Heritage campaigner Dame Barbara Goodman grew into local body politics. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey
Heritage campaigner Dame Barbara Goodman grew into local body politics. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

Former Auckland mayoress Dame Barbara Goodman, who was drafted into the role by her mayoral uncle, Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, has died aged 80.

Her death yesterday morning at Auckland City Hospital after several years with Parkinson's disease was greeted with sadness by the incumbent mayor, Len Brown, who said she was a great Aucklander.

"Dame Barbara's legacy will last well beyond her death," Mr Brown said.

"She was a great Aucklander who played a significant role in the civic life of this city. She was respected by everyone - independent and feisty, and committed to the causes she supported."

That included 10 years chairing the Odyssey House rehabilitation centre and 17 years as patron of Volunteering Auckland.

After serving in the largely ceremonial role of Sir Dove-Myer's mayoress during his final 12 years in office until 1980 - which included hosting civic receptions for the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh - Dame Barbara re-entered political life as a member of the then Auckland City Council from 1989 until she stood down in 2001.

Her younger brother, Marsden Robinson, said that although she was recruited by their colourful uncle to fill a titular gap left by the break-up of his marriage, she threw herself into the role, developing an interest in politics along the way.

She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1989 and was elected that year after the death of her city councillor husband, Harold Goodman, a former deputy mayor, as a candidate for the centre-right Citizens and Ratepayers.

But a more recent former Auckland mayor, Christine Fletcher, said Dame Barbara was a social liberal while remaining fiscally conservative and establishing herself as a good "centrist" role model for women across political lines.

Dame Barbara inherited her uncle's trait of being unafraid to tackle those in positions of power, such as when she criticised a speech to a women's conference in 1976 by Prime Minister Robert Muldoon for not supporting the advance of feminism.

The GayNZ website also paid tribute to her yesterday for founding a group in 1985 called Heterosexuals Unafraid of Gays (Hug).

Left-wing councillor Mike Lee said she was "a lovely person who represented a progressive and generous liberal side of Auckland".

Mrs Fletcher said Dame Barbara was a very gracious woman who felt strongly about preserving what remained of Auckland's heritage.

She and another city councillor, Astrid Malcolm, asked Mrs Fletcher to stand for mayor in 1998, largely to protect Britomart from demolition for a transport interchange on a far larger scale than has since been developed on the site.

"She was absolutely adamant that we could not lose that heritage, that Auckland had lost too much and we had to put a line in the sand.

"She wanted a civilised city, she wanted artistic endeavours to be championed and she felt very strongly about beauty in public places."

A funeral for Dame Barbara, who is survived by three children and four grandchildren, will be held at the Jewish section of Waikumete Cemetery at 2pm tomorrow.

- NZ Herald

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