Towering Putiki O Kahu (Rangihoua) provided a fitting backdrop as about 200 people honoured former Alliance Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton at his burial at Onetangi Cemetery on Saturday.

Veteran politicians, unionists and Pacific Island communities showed their gratitude to Mr Anderton who was described as an honourable and principled politician.

But most of all, the occasion was a time for his family to say their final farewells.

Mr Anderton’s death on 8 January aged 79 ended a tumultuous political era which began with the Labour Government’s embrace of free market economics in the 1980s. His decision to leave Labour in 1989 and form New Labour exposed a chasm that was to haunt centre-left politics for decades. 

Among those drawn to Waiheke to show their respects were former MP and Service Workers Union secretary Rick Barker, fellow Labour MPs Dover Samuels and Shane Te Pou and Matt Robson, Mr Anderton’s parliamentary colleague in the Progressive Party in post-Alliance days.

Reverend Mua Strickson-Pua spoke of Mr Anderton’s intervention during the infamous ‘dawn raids’ in the 1970s, when Samoan and other Pacific Island overstayers were deported under the Muldoon government. 

Mr Samuels lightened proceedings with recollections of fishing and diving escapades at Matauri Bay.

Mr Anderton’s son Stephen also recalled precious times scaling cliffs on west coast beaches during fishing expeditions with his dad, bringing home snapper to feed the family. He talked of hooning around the countryside in the back of a van with his mates as a teenager, when his father was always referred to as “Big Jim”.

“He had a larger than life persona.”

The service was led by Catholic priest Michael
Alipia Endemann.

A former Aucklander, Mr Anderton had lived in Christchurch since entering Parliament in 1984 and his wish to be buried on Waiheke surprised many. But his links to the island were complex: his mother lived here in the 1960s and again in her latter years in a house her son had built for her. He continued to visit after her death in 1990, spending time with former press secretary and good friend Brian Healy and with Sandra Lee, who became his deputy in the Alliance Party.

Geoff Cumming

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