Whakatāne's longest-serving councillor George Johnston has died at 83.

The well-known Eastern Bay of Plenty figure died on Sunday.

In a statement from his son Heyden Johnston, George was described as "one of the last of a breed of real Kiwi blokes, a good keen man in every sense."

He said George antics with kiwi icon Barry Crump were the basis of many stories published by the pair.


"George touched many lives throughout his illustrious career".

He was born in Whakatāne and then moved to nearby rural settlement of Te Teko, where his family owned the local service station.

George became known for his hunting and fishing abilities that led him to start one of the first deer recovery chillers in New Zealand, where locals would deliver wild animals they had shot in return for cash.

Long-serving Whakatāne councillor George Johnston in 2007. Photo / File
Long-serving Whakatāne councillor George Johnston in 2007. Photo / File

From there, George made the first-known dog sausage roll which is now used by pet food manufacturers world wide.

George then went on to start the first registered deer farm, that led to pioneering the deer velvet processing industry. Whilst in Te Teko, George also started a Safari hunting business that attracted "rich and famous from all over the world," Heyden said.

"Jetboating was another passion and George began the first tourist jet boat operation in the Bay of plenty taking people to the Aniwhenua falls."

George was also one of the very few people with no Māori lineage to be ordained as a Kaitiaki for his work in Bay of Plenty fisheries.

He was Whakatane's highest polling councillor for 5 consecutive elections seeing him serve 15 years on the council, before withdrawing due to failing health.


His commitment to protecting the fisheries saw him act as an honorary fisheries officer for 20 years.

A celebration of George's life will be held next to the Rangitaiki river at Thornton this Saturday.

"Bring a beer and a chair, share some stories and enjoy celebrating the life of one of New Zealand true characters."