Wallace Ross (Ross) Bramwell MNZM
December 2, 1933 — August 11, 2019

Hawke's Bay lost one of its most influential local body politicians with the passing of former Hawke's Bay Regional Council chairman Ross Bramwell earlier this month, aged 85.

Made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2004 New Year Honours, for services to local government, he had been a member of the Hawke's Bay Pest Destruction Board for 10 years, and its chairman for three years before the establishment of the Regional Council in the local government reforms of 1989.

Elected as the sole Ngaruroro Constituency representative on the Council in 1992 he became chairman just four years later, after the passing of first chairman, Doug Walker. Mr Bramwell was chairman for eight years.

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Son of lawyer Wallace (Bram) and Bramwell and wife Thelma, chairing committees was in the genes, his dad being a long-serving chairman of the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union, including the money-spinning years of the 1966-1969 Ranfurly Shield era.

Ross Bramwell back on the farm after receiving the Laurie Dowling Memorial Award in 2009. Photo/File
Ross Bramwell back on the farm after receiving the Laurie Dowling Memorial Award in 2009. Photo/File

After more than two decades in elected board and council service, Ross Bramwell was able to also devote time to some of Hawke's Bay's biggest sporting interests.

He had played rugby, including the Ross Shield primary schools tournament and a Hawke's Bay age grades team, he had played and coached badminton, becoming a life member of the Hawke's Bay Badminton Association, he'd played first X1 cricket, and boxing, javelin, rowing golf and sheep dog trialling were also to become parts of his sporting portfolio.

As council chairman he headed the regional sports stadium project which led to the opening of the Pettigrew Green Arena in Taradale in 2003, and he would the next year become founding chairman of new tourism and regional economic development partnership Hawke's Bay Incorporated, a position he relinquished at the end of 2008.

He would also chair a fundraising committee for the Graeme Lowe Stand at McLean Park in Napier, and a group plotting Hawke's Bay's role in Rugby World Cup hosting in 2011.

In 2009 at the Hawke's Bay Farmer of the Year Awards (now the Primary Sector Awards) he received the Laurie Dowling Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to Agriculture.

It recognised in particular his role on an Animal Health Board Hawke's Bay regional committee chairman battling the threat of bovine tuberculosis in the area and TB declaration cards, a forerunner of stock monitoring system National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT).

He was in the same year also a recipient of a Napier City Council Civic Award.

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Mr Bramwell was born in Hastings and raised in Havelock North, before being sent to New Plymouth Boys' High School, the intention to follow his father into the legal profession.

Although he would later in life become a Justice of the Peace and Marriage Celebrant, he was, however, more intent on a career in agriculture, which started as an office junior with stock and station agents Murray Roberts and Co.

It was soon disrupted by compulsory military training, amid the harsh conditions of Waiouru and Ruapehu, and getting to know heavy machinery in the Valentine tanks, but after three years with the stock firm he was employed as a shepherd at Tamumu, and would ultimately farm Northlands, near Te Pohue, and at Argyll.

Former regional council CEO Andrew Caseley said Ross Bramwell was an outstanding chairman, and "very politically savvy", although not to his own advantage. People close to him would not have known his own personal politics, Caseley said.

Mr Bramwell's wife, Sue (nee Morgan, from Masterton), died in 1997 and they are survived by two sons and four daughters, and 17 grandchildren. His funeral, with eulogies from Caseley and farmer and Hastings District Council deputy Mayor Tania Kerr, was held at All Saints Church, Taradale, on August 16.