Waikato Regional Council has paid tribute to former councillor Hugh Vercoe (ONZM, QSM), who has died over the weekend aged 80.
The former artilleryman retired from local government politics in 2022 after 30 years.
He entered local government in 1992, chairing the Morrinsville Community Board for six years before enjoying 15 years as mayor of Matamata-Piako between 1998 and 2013, and then nine years as a Waikato regional councillor for the Waihou constituency.
He chaired the Waikato Civil Defence and Emergency Management Joint Committee between 2010 and 2022, and Waikato Regional Transport Committee between 2013 and 2022.
In 2014 he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to local government, which followed a Queen’s Service Medal awarded in 2007.
Waikato Regional Council Chair Pamela Storey, who served a term as councillor with Vercoe, described him as a passionate community advocate.
“Waikato communities were blessed with his service over many, many years. He brought insight and eperience to every table he sat at.
“He was generous with his time and sage with his advice. He was the wise owl who would listen intently and give measured, meaningful responses that provided a clear steer, a clear direction, and a very clear point of view.
“Hugh advocated strongly for increased investment in civil defence in the region, and with a team of professionals on board he had total confidence that every aspect of an emergency would be managed well.
“He was proud of the significant growth and development in regional land transport. It was under his leadership of the regional transport committee that sign off was received for the completion of the Waikato Expressway, an enormous roading programme supported by Government.
“Hugh also championed the launch of interregional passenger rail, and was pleased to see the steady growth in numbers on Te Huia.
“On behalf of the council, I’d like to extend our deepest sympathies to Hugh’s family.”
Vercoe brought to his political roles experience as a successful sheep, beef and dairy farmer at Tauhei, as well as business acumen as the owner of a Morrinsville finance company and later co-owner of a newspaper.
A Battery Commander of the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery, Major (Retired) Vercoe recently opened an artillery museum on his farm.