Former Mayors of Porirua City
"History maketh a young man be old, without either wrinkles or gray hairs; priviledging him with the experience of age, without either the infirmities or inconveniences thereof."
- Thomas Fuller
Whitford James Richard Brown, CBE, OBE
Mayor of Porirua 1965-1983.
First Mayor of Porirua City.
(Oil painting hanging in the Council Chambers)
Whitford James Brown, or "Brownie" as he was more generally known, was born at Maori Creek near Greymouth on 13 May 1910. He moved to Wanganui as a teenager and transferred from the Public Works Department to NZ Railways Department at Wanganui where he worked as a civil engineer until shifting to Porirua.
After his marriage to Frances Ward, Whitford Brown and his family settled in Porirua in 1954. Their Martin Street home was one of relatively few in the area and remote from shops and other facilities.
He was "persuaded" to stand for the then Makara County Council in 1959, and although he was unsuccessful, was elected at a by-election the following year. Two years later, when Porirua was constituted a borough, Whitford Brown was elected mayor. His first official function was to open Mungavin Hall.
The new borough was fortunate in that it inherited an experienced and efficient staff from the County, and the first few years saw unbelievable changes in Porirua under Whitford Brown's leadership. The air in Porirua East was full of the dust of earthworks as the contours of the countryside were dramatically altered to provide hundreds of housing sections for new families arriving daily.
His first concern as mayor was to obtain industrial land and the then Prime Minister Keith Holyoake proved helpful. The new borough negotiated with the government to free land where the Todd Motors car assembly plant was built in 1975, and Broken Hill was also zoned industrial. Other major industries were established as well as a modern shopping area where once there had been empty space. "It was like being the midwife at the birth of a new community," Mr Brown once said.
Porirua became a city in 1965 and Whitford Brown was the city's first mayor, and was re-elected at every election until be retired from the mayoralty in 1983.
In his 21 years as an Independent mayor, "Brownie" took humble pride in heading a multicultural city and did his utmost to promote racial harmony. Jocularly but with humility he termed himself the only white mayor called Brown in New Zealand.
In 1970, he was the recipient of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Award and spent three months studying pollution problems overseas.
He was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1972 Queen's Birthday Honours list, and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1984 New Year's Honours list for services to local government.
Whitford Brown was closely associated with many Porirua and regional community and business organisations over the years, including the Hutt Valley Energy Board, Wellington Trustee Savings Bank, Porirua College Board of Governors, Wellington Regional Council, Wellington Harbour Board, the Porirua Licensing Trust, and was patron of the Maraeroa community. In 1980 he saw the successful establishment of a sheltered workshop for handicapped people at Titahi Bay which bears his name (the Whitford Brown Community Workshop) which is designed to help people get back into the workforce. Whitford Brown Drive which leads up the hill into Ascot Park from State Highway One was named after him. He was also a founder member of the Whitireia Park Board.
Tributes flowed in when Whitford Brown passed away on 14 April 1986 after a short illness. People described him as a "peaceful individual with an absolutely marvellous sense of humour," and "a friend who will leave a gap which will take a lot of replacing". "He brought his engineering and management skills to Porirua, and the very great gift of his caring skills. He was a very compassionate person, a humble person, and a friend to everyone. More than just a mayor, he was very protective of Porirua and keen to see it develop to a fully self-contained city." "He had the attributes of a Christian gentleman."
"Porirua City's motto, Mo te katoa nga mahi (All that is done is for the benefit of all) was Brownie's motto in life." He was always interested in literature, and his ability as a writer and poet showed him as a deep thinker and a man of rich expression.
At the time of his death in 1986, Whitford Brown was survived by his wife, three sons, two daughters, 17 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Whitford Brown, OBE, CBE, "The Father of Porirua", former mayor of Porirua City, is buried at Whenua Tapu Cemetery.
The above painting of Whitford Brown, which hangs in the Council Chamber of the Administration Building, was commissioned by Porirua City Council and sponsored by Metro Ford Ltd. The artist was Juliet Kac of Lyall Bay, a member of the Academy of Fine Arts.
Sources of information - Porirua Public Library Records
- Text of News Feature on the City of Porirua and its foundation Mayor for 21 years, by freelance writer Jane Symonds
- "Mayor regrets politics in council", Kapi Mana News, 21/6/1983, p1
- "His death closes a chapter", Kapi Mana News, 22/4/1986, p2
- "Porirua's Mayor is deeply involved in community", Kapi Mana News, 21/7/1973
- "Long Serving Mayor dies", Kapi Mana News, 15/4/1986, p2
- "Porirua's former mayor pleased with portrait", Kapi Mana News, 14/5/1985, p3
John Brian Burke, QSO
Mayor of Porirua 1983-1998
(Oil painting hanging in the Council Chambers)
Porirua’s second mayor was born in Invercargill and educated at Marist College. He joined the staff of the New Zealand Post Office after working in the private sector and with his wife Linda and baby son Dean, came to live in Titahi Bay in 1968 after transferring to Post Office Headquarters.
Elected a city councillor in 1971, his special interest was sport and recreation and he believed sports grounds at the time were "less than adequate". He became Deputy Mayor in 1977 and was elected Mayor in 1983. Alleviating unemployment, resolving the sewage treatment problem and developing a civic centre were high on the new mayor’s priority list.
John Burke retained the mayoralty for 15 years, and saw many projects being realised – the new sewage treatment plant opened in September 1989; the acquisition of land in Eastwood Avenue and its development (now the North City Shopping Centre); landscaping and upgrading, traffic rerouting and calming in the city centre; the development of the Mungavin Interchange and duplication of the Mungavin bridge; development of the library and Pataka Museum of Arts and Cultures; construction of the Trust Porirua Aquatic Centre, and the early stages of the MegaCentre.
The superb quality (now recognised around the Wellington region) of sporting grounds in Porirua City is a testament to the vision of John Burke, who throughout his council career fought long and hard for their high quality development and maintenance.
In addition to his city council involvement, John Burke has served on a number of organisations and boards including the Mana Marina Trust, Wellington Harbour Board, Hutt Valley Energy Board (a former chairman), was a Director of the Energy Direct Corporation, Transalta New Zealand, Hutt Mana Holdings and Mana Taverns Boards, was President of Sister Cities New Zealand, a national councillor of Local Government New Zealand, Vice President of the Electricity Supply Association and a member of Gas Association of New Zealand executive.
John Burke’s involvement in the life and progress of Porirua City continues to this day. He is President of the Porirua Licensing Trust, Chairman of the Mana Community Grants Foundation and is Porirua’s representative (and a former chairman of) the Hutt Mana Energy Trust.
The above painting which hangs in the Council Chamber of the Administration Building is by K Hunt 1996.
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