Former deputy Prime Minister Bob Tizard dies age 91

Bob Tizard became deputy Prime Minister and  Finance Minister in 1974 under Sir Wallace Rowling, who succeeded Norm Kirk after his sudden death. Cartoon by Rod Emmerson.
Bob Tizard became deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister in 1974 under Sir Wallace Rowling, who succeeded Norm Kirk after his sudden death. Cartoon by Rod Emmerson.

Bob Tizard, a former deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and deputy leader of the Labour Party, died in Auckland, this morning, aged 91.

Labour leader Andrew Little said Mr Tizard had a mind like a steel trap.

"You were never left wondering what he thought, about anything."

"Bob was one of a kind."

He said former deputy Prime Minister Sir Michael Cullen had described Mr Tizard once as being one of the most gifted people to have sat in Parliament.

As Finance Minister Mr Tizard had delivered lower tax rates for many on low incomes, brought in standard tertiary bursary, and increased low-cost lending for housing.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters paid tribute to Mr Tizard saying he was "a serious parliamentarian with a very good grasp of the facts and with a real sense of history."

"The fact that he didn't suffer fools gladly did not diminish in any way the role he played in Parliament, whether in Government or Opposition.

"When up against him in Parliament an opponent had to have his argument well researched and well prepared or he would quickly turn them into verbal toast.

"There is no doubt that Bob Tizard was a real political character, the calibre of which we have far too few today."

Mr Tizard became deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister in 1974 under Sir Wallace Rowling, who succeeded Norm Kirk after his sudden death.

But that Government lost power to Sir Robert Muldoon's National the following year in a campaign that featured the "Dancing Cossacks" ad attacking the compulsory superannuation scheme that Labour had begun that year.

Labour did not hold power again until 1984.

Mr Tizard was the former husband of Dame Catherine Tizard (a former mayor of Auckland and former Governor-General) and father of former Labour MP Judith Tizard.

David Lange replaced Mr Tizard as deputy leader in 1979, before claiming the leadership from Rowling in 1983 and leading Labour to power for a fourth time.

Mr Tizard was Defence Minister in the latter part of the Fourth Labour Government and after a bitter debate within the party and country, he won cabinet approval for the ANZAC frigates (Te Kaha and Te Mana) which form the backbone of the current Navy.

Mr Tizard argued that the frigates were essential to New Zealand's relationship with Australia.

Mr Tizard was first elected to Parliament in 1957 as MP for Tamaki but lost the seat at the 1960 election to Sir Robert Muldoon.

He was then an MP from 1963 until 1990 when he retired in Otahuhu, then as MP Pakuranga and then Panmure.

Judith Tizard succeeded him in Panmure.

Mr Tizard met Dame Catherine while they were students at Auckland University where he was president of the students' association and went on to lecture in history.

The couple had four children but divorced in 1980 before Dame Catherine entered public office.

Mr Tizard had a son from a second marriage, to Mary Nacey.

They were divorced and he and married for a third time, to a wartime sweetheart, Canadian Beryl Vignale.

He was elected to the Auckland District Health bard in 2007 at the age of 83.

Mr Tizard had a reputation for being very blunt, and having the occasional run-in with journalists.

When he retired in 1990, the Prime Minister Mike Moore described him as an "unforgettable character and personality" who had managed New Zealand through the oil shock with calmness.

He spent 12 years in Government and 19 years in Opposition and said in his valedictory in 1990 that some of the most frustrating times were as a backbencher in Government.

"When people outside felt I was in the seat of power but I all felt was that someone was putting the boot in because however much members might think that they are part of the machinery of Government, few of us reach the position of being really able to influence and alter the major things that are happening."

Mr Tizard was a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said Mr Tizard was "a serious parliamentarian with a very good grasp of the facts and with a real sense of history".

"The fact that he didn't suffer fools gladly did not diminish in any way the role he played in Parliament, whether in Government or Opposition.

"When up against him in Parliament, an opponent had to have his argument well researched and well prepared or he would quickly turn them into verbal toast.

"There is no doubt that Bob Tizard was a real political character, the calibre of which we have far too few today."

- NZ Herald

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