Tauranga is mourning the loss of one of its treasures who worked tirelessly for the community.

Dame Joy Drayton, 96, who died on Friday, moved to Tauranga in 1959, the same year she took over as principal of Tauranga Girls' College.

It was a role she held for 22 years. She introduced Maori language studies during her tenure - the first state school to do so.

In 1985 she entered local body politics, joining the Tauranga City Council to fight for a new library, and remained until 1992. She spent three years as deputy mayor from 1986 to 1989.


In 1989, after the library was built and Environment Bay of Plenty was launched, she became a regional councillor, serving as deputy chairwoman from 1992 to 1995, and as chairwoman of the resource planning committee from 1996 to 1998.

Dr Drayton received an honorary doctorate from the University of Waikato, where she was Pro Chancellor from 1986 to 1991, and was made a Dame in 2005 in recognition for her outstanding services to education and local body affairs.

During her lifetime Dr Drayton held many other executive roles, including as an executive committee member of the Historic Places Trust and a patron of the Tauranga Society of Artists.

She was also a member of the Council of the University of Waikato from 1979 to 1987 and Hamilton Teachers' College Council member from 1986 to 1991.

Dr Drayton was also a chairwoman of the Bay of Plenty Women's Refuge from 1982 to 1986 and an executive member of the National Council of Woman from 1987 to 1991.

In 1987 she received the Paul Harris Fellow Award from Tauranga Rotary Club for service to the community.

Longstanding Tauranga friend, Jinty Rorke, said Dr Drayton had been an outstanding character in the Tauranga community for many years.

"Not only as principal of Tauranga Girls' College but as an active contributor to local body politics, both in the city council and regional council, and to the arts, including as the first trustee of The Elms.

"She has contributed to this community in so many other ways, too. It's a lasting memorial to her," she said.

Mrs Rorke said Dr Drayton could be a "bit of a feisty character" but nevertheless she loved people, and she was a very caring person and was very community-minded and well respected for all her good works, including by Maori.

Despite the roles she had and the honours bestowed on her, she was a very humble person and would be sadly missed, she said.

Dr Drayton's funeral will be at 11am on Wednesday at Wesley Church in 13th Avenue.

Her husband Ron died in the mid-1980. The couple had no children.