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Sir Michael Hardie Boys, Former Governor-General and Pillar of New Zealand's MMP Transition, Passes Away at 91

Sunday 31 December 2023, 3:47AM

By Expert Briefing

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Sir Michael Hardie Boys at Orongomai Marae, Waitangi Day 2001
Sir Michael Hardie Boys at Orongomai Marae, Waitangi Day 2001 Credit: Wikipedia

Former Governor-General Sir Michael Hardie Boys, a key figure in New Zealand's transition to MMP and a lifelong public servant, has passed away at the age of 91.

Born in Wellington, he attended Hataitai School and Wellington College before earning a BA and an LLB degree from Victoria University College.

Throughout his career, Sir Michael made significant contributions to the legal field. He practised law in Wellington before being appointed a High Court Judge in 1980. He later served on the Court of Appeal and became a Privy Counsellor in 1989. In 1994, he was elected an Honorary Bencher of Gray's Inn, London. He also held various leadership roles in the Wellington District Law Society and the New Zealand Law Society.

Sir Michael was an active member of his community, serving on various committees and boards. He was a member of the Public and Social Affairs Committee of the Anglican Church, a member of the Management Committee and the Trust Board of Samuel Marsden Collegiate School, and a member of the executive of the predecessor to the Independent Schools Association. He also served as a Council member of the Automobile Association, Wellington (1978-80).

In 1995, Sir Michael was knighted (GCMG) and received the first GNZM awarded in 1996. He was also a Knight of the Order of St John. He served as New Zealand's 17th Governor-General from 1996 to 2001, during which time he was awarded the Queen's Service Order for Public Services.

Sir Michael is survived by his wife, Mary Zohrab, and their four children and several grandchildren.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon paid tribute to Sir Michael Hardie Boys' role in guiding the country during the transition to MMP, stating, "Sir Michael was a figure of stability during a time of significant constitutional change." 

After his tenure as Governor-General, Sir Michael continued to contribute to the community, volunteering for a literacy program at Kapanui School in Waikanae and serving on the Court of Appeal of Kiribati. 

Reflecting on his life of service, Luxon noted, "Sir Michael epitomised what it is to be a great New Zealander." 

The Chief Justice, Dame Helen Winkelmann, also paid tribute to Sir Michael Hardie Boys' judicial career, stating, “Sir Michael was a great New Zealander. He spent his life, in one way or another, in service to New Zealand. On behalf of the New Zealand judiciary, I acknowledge Sir Michael’s service to the law, and to the judiciary.”

She highlighted his role in the early cases that addressed the application of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and his involvement in the Invercargill City Council v Hamlin case that confirmed the duty of care owed by councils to subsequent purchasers. 

Dame Helen also noted Sir Michael's commitment to justice, mercy, and humility during his time as a judge.

In accordance with Sir Michael's wishes, there will be no state funeral, with further details to be announced by the family.