Ex-county council chairman dies at 76
SELWYN JOHN BEGLEY
One of Hawke’s Bay’s most prominent politicians in the era of local government restructuring at the end of the 1980s, Selwyn Begley, died at his home in Napier on Tuesday, aged 76.
He spent 22 years in local government, entering in 1970 as the Heretaunga Riding representative on the Hawke’s Bay County Council, on which he was the final chairman from 1983 to its disappearance in the restructuring in 1989.
He became deputy mayor of Hastings, on the district council formed by what was effectively the merging of the county and Hastings city, and retired in 1992.
He was made a member of the Queen’s Service Order (QSO) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 1993, at which time he told Napier’s Daily Telegraph: “The last 10 years in local government have probably been the most trying and stressful in the whole history of local government”.
“While we did not welcome that change, from here on the Hastings District Council can now look forward to a good future.”
Having served also on the Hawke’s Bay United Council, as deputy chairman and regional planning committee chairman, he championed the idea of a single authority for the region and believed restructuring hadn’t gone far enough.
He didn’t covet the extensive bureaucracy, and has been said to have been one of the last of an era where people served on borough, city and county councils because they wanted to, and wanted to serve the people, with little concern that the honorarium was only $300.
Born in Hastings on August 22, 1930, the elder of two sons of Dan and Berta Begley, and starting school at St Joseph’s, he lived most of his life in the Bay, apart from his years as a boarder at St Pat’s Silverstream, obtaining a Dip Ag at Massey University, and five years in Northland after his retirement from local govern-ment, helping son Paul establish a dairy farming business.
He had earlier been prominent in dairying, learning much from his father who also trod the political trail, and who in 1937 founded Farm Products, effectively the seed of the giant now known as Fonterra.
Selwyn Begley, ensconced in the affairs of Young Farmers Clubs where he was honing his debating and public speaking skills, became a director of the company at the age of 20, and chairman eight years later, by which time he was dairy farming at Norton Road.
He turned to cropping in the Wattie’s boom, moving into asparagus, for which he developed the first harvesting rig after moving to Morley Road.
Foresight seemed a family trait, for it was he who can be credited with sewing [sowing] the seed which eventually led to the establishment of the Mission Concerts.
It dates back to his 10 years as chairman of the Marist Board of Trustees overseeing the Mission, and the commercial development of the vineyard and farming interests.
Paul Begley says he can remember his father coming home one day, circa late 1970s, and talking of developing part of the vineyard as a concert venue.
“Kiri Te Kanawa could be there,” he told the son, who also remembers scoffing at the notion.
He was to attend several of the concerts there, and since he and wife Moira returned to the Bay from Northland, to help another son, Simon, in an agricultural contracting business, they had lived in the manager’s house on the estate.
Retirement, however, was never for Selwyn Begley and up to late last year he still worked, driving tourists for Pernel Orchard.
Stricken by the re-appearance of a cancer which had troubled him about a decade ago, he had been ill over recent months.
The couple’s Golden Wedding celebrations were deferred from October 22, the 50th anniversary of the day he married Hastings girl Moira (nee Allison) in 1956, but he was determined to be around for a celebratory gathering on January 22.
It went ahead, and he died the next day, in the company of family who had come from near and far.
He is survived by Moira, sons Garry, Paul, Ross and Simon, daughters Clare, Lynda and Rachel, and 13 grandchildren.
His funeral was being held this afternoon at St Peter Chanel Church, Hastings.