Hamilton councillor and former Silver Fern Margaret Forsyth has died today after announcing just last month she was temporarily stepping down from her council duties to battle ongoing health issues.
Forsyth was serving her third term as a Hamilton City councillor, after first serving from 2010 to 2016 and being elected again in 2019. During this term, she was chairwoman of the council's Environment Committee.
Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate said this afternoon that Forsyth was a "stoic and principled" councillor who was forthright and considered in her views.
As well as her community work, Forsyth was well-known throughout New Zealand as part of the Silver Ferns Netball World Championship team in 1979 and 1987. She played goal attack in 64 international tests and later became head coach of the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic from 2014 to 2018.
In July last year, she officially became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to netball and the community.
Just three weeks ago, Forsyth announced she will take leave from council to manage health challenges that she had been dealing with quietly for some time. She died at home today surrounded by family including her sons Thomas, Jonathan and Lucien.
Southgate said: "Margaret was not afraid to speak her mind and to take a firm position on issues that were important to her and to our community. She delivered exceptional service to our city in many ways, over many, many years."
"She was an outstanding role model for young women in particular. She was well-loved and respected and her passing will be a huge shock to many. I and her many friends and colleagues at work are deeply saddened and send the family our love at this time."
Councillor Angela O'Leary said Forsyth was both a colleague and a "kind and caring friend".
"We became fast friends at council as soon as Marg was elected and I loved her for her straight-talking and no-nonsense approach. She was very kind and very loyal and I will miss her dreadfully."
Forsyth first advocated for an overall cycling plan for the city and it was fitting that a long-term cycling strategy was approved by the council just last week, O'Leary said.
"Having that cycling plan in place will be one of Margaret's legacies for the city, but there are many others. She was passionate about getting more women involved in politics and she was incredibly supportive of others who put themselves forward and tried to make a positive difference."
Southgate said she and O'Leary were working directly with Forsyth's family to make arrangements for a fitting tribute from the city.
"Those details will come. But right now we are mourning a colleague and a friend and doing what we can to support Margaret's family."