Peter David Cox OBE
(April 24, 1927 — May 18, 2019)

OBITUARY: The busy life of former Napier deputy mayor Peter Cox was commemorated in two ways on Thursday.

The first was his funeral in St Patrick's Catholic Church and the second a few hundred metres away at the Municipal Theatre in the dedication to him of that night's performance of Napier Operatic Society production Les Miserables.

A city councillor for 21 years (1953-1974) and deputy mayor for the last 12 of those, Cox had been the operatic society's patron for more than 22 years up to the time he died last Saturday, less than a month after his 92nd birthday.

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At the time of his election to the council at the age of 26, he was the youngest person to take a place at the table since the forerunning Napier Borough Council was established in 1874.

Napier Operatic Society patron, travel industry leader and former Napier deputy Mayor Peter Cox OBE, who died on May 18, 2019.
Napier Operatic Society patron, travel industry leader and former Napier deputy Mayor Peter Cox OBE, who died on May 18, 2019.

He served from the last term of 1950-1956 of Mayor Ron Spriggs, through the 18 years' mayoralty of Sir Peter Tait, and was a long-serving chairman of its town planning committee.

His time as a city councillor spanned some of Napier's most iconic events and developments. There were the visits by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1954 and the Queen Mother in 1958, Pania of the Reef was unveiled by Prime Minister Sid Holland in 1954 as a gift from the Thirty Thousand Club, Hawke's Bay Airport was built at Westshore and opened in 1963, and the city built the Centennial Hall and the Onekawa swimming complex.

Taradale became a part of Napier City in 1968, having been administered by a Town Board since from 1886 to 1963, at which time it became a Borough Council with its own mayor.

The council acquired the former Napier Park Racing Club racecourse at Greenmeadows, and with Cox adamant as to its future purpose in the face of developers with other ideas, it became a 36ha reserve now known as Anderson Park.

He was not as successful with his retirement-years opposition to big-box retail development on the old Napier railyards site where a shopping complex is now being built, where he would have preferred perhaps residential and parking development to support the nearby CBD.

A meeting with Prince Albert of Monaco in Peter Cox's role as World president of an international travel organisation. Photo / Supplied
A meeting with Prince Albert of Monaco in Peter Cox's role as World president of an international travel organisation. Photo / Supplied

Having helped the operatic society out of the recess forced upon it during World War II, his performances in its iconic shows was confined to The Vagabond in 1959, but he was a member about 70 years, president in 1962-1966, and patron since the 1990s.

Born and raised in Napier, he spent his entire working career in the family real estate and travel businesses established by father Clarence Cox, starting in 1946 after leaving Napier Boys High School, which he attended in 1941-1945.

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President of the Travel Agents Association of New Zealand from 1978 to 1980 and made a life member in 1989, in 1990 he succeeded to the world presidency of the Universal Federation of Travel Agents' Associations, with a board of 18 from its more than 80 countries.

In 1992, his service with the UFTAA was rewarded with the title of Honorary President, and in New Zealand's New Year Honours of that year he was awarded the OBE for service to the industry and the community.

He was said to have had little difficulty heading the Monaco-based world travel body from Napier with the aid of the fax machine, ahead of the explosion of internet and email use. His time with the organisation involved multiple trips abroad each year, and focused on restoring its financial integrity and securing its future as a global advocacy for the industry.

The business in Napier succeeded into a fourth generation, son Eric becoming involved in 1984, and his daughter joining Cox World Travel after her grandfather's retirement.
Eric Cox died suddenly in November 2017 and the travel business ended after 97 years in Napier. Cox Partners Estate Agents continues to thrive.

Other involvement in the community included chairing the Hawke's Bay and Wellington divisions of National Party youth wing the Junior Nationals, which hosted a range of events during which he met Moyra Munro, whom he married at St Patrick's church on August 17, 1955, and who shared the stage production interests singing for several decades with the Napier Civic Choir.

He is survived by wife Moyra, and four of their five sons. They had 15 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.