A Crocodile Dundee Kiwi with a passion for adventure and helping others will be missed by many after his life was tragically cut short by a car crash in Australia.

Coromandel resident Graham Lawson died in Queensland's Townsville hospital late last month after his station wagon collided with a semi-trailer truck south of the city.

The fishing-obsessed 66-year-old had been one week into a holiday to Australia's far north - something he loved to do each winter in a quest for sunshine and barramundi.

His partner Christine Jarden had been due to join him in a few weeks, but instead rushed across the Tasman to his hospital bed, feeling devastated and shocked.

Advertisement

The couple had fallen in love and bought a home together after meeting three years ago when Lawson moved to Jarden's Coromandel coast hometown of Onemana.

He was her "Crocodile Dundee" - a man who could even make "a trip to the tip" seem like an adventure.

"I had been by myself, single, for 20 to 25 years and then I met this wonderful man, who was just too good to be true," she said.

"We were halfway through renovating our home, everything is half done – we had so many plans."

An energetic larrikin, Lawson threw himself into everything he did.

He quickly became chair of the Onemana's Ratepayers Association, helped run the local spa complex and was an enthusiastic fisherman and volunteer fire fighter.

Locals playfully dubbed him "Mayor of Onemana".

Graham Lawson was a larrikin and Crocodile Dundee, who will be missed by many, his partner Christina Jarden says. Photo / Ruhi Pene
Graham Lawson was a larrikin and Crocodile Dundee, who will be missed by many, his partner Christina Jarden says. Photo / Ruhi Pene

Should Onemana's fire alarm sound in the middle of the night, he would enthusiastically leap from bed and could forever be found chatting to folk fishing on the shore or stopping to help those in broken down cars.

This was especially the case in Australia where, having purchased "all the gear", he revelled at the chance to try his winch and myriad tools.

He was also kept busy renovating his and Jarden's new home, where he had been converting the lower level into a unit for his partner's elderly father.

"People loved Graham," Jarden said.

"He was generous with his time and skills and got so much pleasure from helping others."

Yet fishing was his true obsession and Australia's far north his favourite getaway.

There the warmth eased joints that ached from a working life spent "leaping from helicopters" to chase deer about the farm he had owned and sold not long before moving to the Coromandel.

During one such Australian trip, Lawson camped along a coastal Queensland river where he caught a huge barramundi late in the evening.

With darkness coming, he left the fish in his small "tinny" boat on the river's shore and climbed into his tent and fell asleep.

"Later he heard rustling and a noise that sounded, 'thud, thud, thud'," Jarden said.

"He thought he'd better go out and see what it was, and it was a bloody crocodile."

Chasing the first croc away, Lawson then came across a second that refused to budge and sat, immovable, staring at him.

Undeterred, he managed to retrieve his barramundi from the tinny and hang it in a tree so the crocs couldn't get it before going back to sleep.

"He had no fear," Jarden said.

Strangely, despite his obsession with fishing, Lawson disliked the taste of seafood and would give his catches away.

"I tried to curry and sweet and sour the fish to disguise the taste, but he would say, 'Nah, this is not real food'," Jarden said with a laugh.

She said his death and loss would be felt by so many.

Though she had known him only the past three years, it felt like the pair had spent a lifetime together.

She had been planning to retire early from her job so they could each year spend up to five months fishing and travelling in Australia.

Yet now the carpet had "been ripped out" from under her feet.

"He was really someone special ... my hopes and dreams and plans for the future are all gone," Jarden said.