Rotorua lawyer John Chadwick - the husband of mayor Steve Chadwick - has died.

Te Arawa kaumatua Monty Morrison said Mr Chadwick died suddenly in Rotorua Hospital about 2.30pm today.

"Steve was with him when he passed."

He said the cause of death was not yet known.


"Obviously everyone is here supporting the family, but are in a total state of shock."

Mr Morrison said Mr Chadwick would remain at his family home in Kawaha Point until 9am Monday when he would be taken onto Te Papaiouru Marae in Ohinemutu where he will remain for a funeral service on Tuesday at 11am. A private cremation will follow.

Council chief executive Geoff Williams issued the following statement on behalf of the council:

"This has come as a shock to everyone and as an organisation we extend our deepest sympathies to the mayor and her whanau. We will do all we can to support her through this very difficult time."

Rotorua MP Todd McClay has posted a tribute on his Facebook page.

John Chadwick celebrates with wife Steve Chadwick after she wom another term as Rotorua MP in 2005. Photo/File
John Chadwick celebrates with wife Steve Chadwick after she wom another term as Rotorua MP in 2005. Photo/File

"Very sad to learn of John Chadwick's passing in Rotorua today. Nadene and I had got to know him well over the last few years and viewed him as a friend. I had great respect and admiration for him - he lived life to the fullest and what you saw was what you got.
My thoughts and prayers are with Steve Chadwick and family at this difficult time."

Mr Chadwick was 72. He and his wife had been married for almost 49 years and had three children and several grandchildren.

In a 2008 interview Mrs Chadwick described how the pair met while still at school.


"I pursued him ruthlessly, much to my parents' despair."

She said the couple moved to Rotorua because they wanted their children to grow
up knowing what it was to be bicultural.

John and Steve in 1999.
John and Steve in 1999.

Mr Chadwick, a former Daily Post columnist, was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to Maori and the law in the 2016 New Year's Honours.

His citation stated he was managing partner of three all-Maori law firms in Rotorua from 1977 as Hingston and Chadwick, Chadwick Bidois in 1985 and Chadwick Law in 2002. He also practised as a barrister in Rotorua.

In 1987 he was the founding president of the Maori Law Society, served on its executive for many years and is its only life member. In 1987 he founded Te Waiariki Purea Trust to manage "Movin On", a Hillary Commission pilot programme providing recreational services to young people in Rotorua.

East Brewster lawyer Curtis Bidois spoke today about Mr Chadwick's involvement in the Maori Law Society.

"The fact it has continued to exist, through our the decades, its longevity shows its value," he said.

Te Waiariki Purea Trust manager Laurie Durand said Mr Chadwick would be dearly missed.

"Obviously he has had a major impact on youth services in this town," he said.

John Chadwick pictured in 2007.
John Chadwick pictured in 2007.

"I certainly feel that the New Year's honours he received were well deserved."

Mr Durand described him as humorous and quite fun to be around.

"He had a wealth of experience to draw on," he said.

Former Rotorua Daily Post deputy editor Jill Nicholas was a friend and former neighbour of the Chadwicks.

"It's people like John Chadwick the expression 'rapier wit' was invented for," she said.

"If he hadn't been such a darn good lawyer he would very likely have made it to the top as a stand-up comedian.

"His snappy one-liners were legendary in and out of the courtroom, the columns he wrote for this newspaper were pithy - with a parable or two invariably slotted into the words of wit and wisdom he delivered.

"His tongue-in-cheek reference to himself as Uncle Nig could have had the PC brigade in a lather but I don't recall a single complaint was received. It was pure "Chad" humour and he was loved for it."

Mrs Nicholas met the Chadwicks when they moved to Rotorua and became her Koutu neighbours, first meeting when their respective dogs fought.

"Whether their Fudge or our Baxter won will never be known - Chad turned a hose on them and declared it was time for a beer."

She said when they moved "up the hill to Kawaha Point" Mr Chadwick insisted the move had in fact been to 'Upper Koutu'.

"It was typically John Chadwick. He had no truck with those who may have considered themselves a step above - he was a man of the people, a side of him I so often saw in full flight in the courtroom. There his skilful oratory was laced with the milk of human kindness and an innate ability to secure justice for those others had dismissed as hopeless cases.

"Thank you Chadwick whanau for the privilege of sharing your husband, dad and koro with us. Our hearts bleed for you at this saddest of times."

Descended from Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Wai O Ngati Tama, Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Whatuiapiti and Ngati Rangikoianake, Mr Chadwick was also the founding chairman in 1987 of the second kohanga reo language nest in New Zealand based in Rotorua. In 2013 he was a founding trustee of Te Arawa Whanau Ora Trust.

Mr Chadwick served on a wide range of committees with the New Zealand Law Society, advised Government on Te Ture Whenua Maori Act in 1993, established the Maori seat on the Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society and was a mandated negotiator for Ngati Tama in its Waitangi Treaty Claim.

At New Year's 2016 he talked to the Rotorua Daily Post about his honour.

"As soon as it [his honour] was announced to me I had to look up what it was. The republican side of me thought that since it was a New Zealand honour, not an imperial one, then it would be fine, but I did feel a little funny about it.

"I was gobsmacked, as I'm used to doing things without any recognition.

"Being a Maori lawyer was not normal and Maori always appreciated having a lawyer visit them at their own homes. Over the years I did a lot of work for Maori pro-bono."

MP for Waiariki and Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said tributes were pouring in from "very part of the community, the wider legal profession, whanau and friends, to honour the significant contribution of one of Rotorua's leading lights, and that is only appropriate, given the thousands of lives this wonderful man touched.

"John was a staunch advocate for our rangatahi, in and out of the courtroom, and he mentored generations of Maori lawyers and other community professionals who beat a path to his door - to revel in his knowledge, to be regaled by his endless stories, and to be enraptured with his notorious wit and one liners," Mr Flavell said.

"With a sharp tongue and even sharper mind, John could articulate a point of view with a style that very few possess. Because of these innate qualities, his submissions, whether in front of the judge or during the oral hearings on the proposed Te Arawa Partnership model, were legendary, and his influence will be carved in to the memories of those who were privileged to see him in full flight, for years to come."