He's fought a brave fight but adored community man Charles Sturt has lost his battle with cancer.

The 64-year-old died today, his birthday, at his home surrounded by his family.

Rotorua deputy mayor Dave Donaldson said Mayor Steve Chadwick announced to councillors this morning that Sturt had died.

The family man, long-serving Rotorua district councillor, sports fanatic, gardener, real estate agent and lover of everything Rotorua has been in hospice care for several weeks after learning at the start of this year the cancer drug he had been taking to keep his tumours at bay, was no longer working.

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Sturt, a former Rotorua district councillor of 33 years, had battled cancer since 2017. Photo / File
Sturt, a former Rotorua district councillor of 33 years, had battled cancer since 2017. Photo / File

He needed up to $80,000 to prolong his life but he told the Rotorua Daily Post in his last interview at the end of January he refused to accept public funding for help, saying he'd rather see people donate to the Child Cancer Foundation - a charity that had been close to his heart.

Professionals McDowell Real Estate co-owner Steve Lovegrove worked alongside Sturt and said he was a "big personality with an even bigger heart."

"It was never about Charles, it was about what Charles was standing up for … he would be the first person to muck in for things that are right," Lovegrove said.

"It's going to leave a big gap in just the colour of life that he brought."

He said the team at McDowell Real Estate was a family, and were grappling with the shock and sadness of Sturt's passing.

Sturt, a former Rotorua district councillor of 33 years, had battled cancer since 2017, revealing publicly last year he was terminal and would stand down from local body politics.

In 2018, he told the Rotorua Daily Post the cancer started in his kidney and had gone up his spinal column - narrowly missing his spinal chord by centimetres - and into the right side of his neck before veering across to the left side of his neck and into his left shoulder.

Charles Sturt steps down from council after 33 years.

While putting up a brave fight, Sturt's health has been deteriorating since the end of last year, when he gave up working as a real estate agent at the Professionals.

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His doctor told him he needed to switch to another drug, Keytruda, that will prolong his life by up to three years, but that drug wasn't funded. Without it, doctors said he wouldn't make it past October.

 Councillor Charles Sturt got the audience bidding at the Rotorua Child Cancer Charity Breakfast and Art Auctions. Photo / File
Councillor Charles Sturt got the audience bidding at the Rotorua Child Cancer Charity Breakfast and Art Auctions. Photo / File

He told the Rotorua Daily Post in January he knew the end was coming and had planned his funeral.

"I have been a fighter all my life and I was determined to fight this," he earlier said.
Sturt said in January his wife, Denise, had been his biggest supporter.

"I couldn't have done this without her, I haven't been the easiest to live with throughout all this. She is my rock."

Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha said Sturt was a "close and dear friend" of the Ngongotahā community, who would be truly missed.

He said he was a "well-respected councillor, businessman and sports coach" who's commitment and dedication was something to be admired.

Sturt had close connections with a number of marae out Ngongotahā and Te Arawa and was "truly a champion" when it came to doing the right thing, he said.

Sturt is survived by his wife Denise, children Elizabeth, William and Cameron, grandchildren Charlie, Finley, Hunter and Henry and children-in-laws James and Crystal.


Charles Sturt 1956-2020
* Married to Denise
* Three children, Elizabeth, William and Cameron
* Four grandchildren
* Real estate agent with Denise at Professionals McDowell Real Estate
* Ngongotaha County Borough Council member 1982/83
* District councillor from 1989-96, then 1996 to today (when Denise nearly died giving birth to Cameron he resigned, forcing a byelection which was won by Steve Chadwick).
* Survived prostate cancer in 2013
* Former race horse breeder/owner
* Former owner of Dianne Diary and Koolens Bakehouse
* Member of several sporting groups and school boards