Tributes are flowing for trailblazing activist and politician Georgina Beyer, with former Prime Minister Helen Clark remembering her as someone who never backed away from a fight.
The world’s first transgender mayor and MP died aged 65 on Monday after a long-term illness.
Beyer died at Mary Potter Hospice in Wellington, surrounded by her “nearest and dearest”, according to a statement from her friends Scotty and Malcolm.
Carterton District Council will discuss naming a street in her honour at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark told AM on Tuesday she’ll be remembered as humorous and courageous right until the end.
“Just listening to your tape just now, her voice sounds so strong, she sounded full of life and that’s the way I think we’ll always remember her,” Clark told AM co-host Ryan Bridge.
“Just a very dynamic presence, a great sense of humour, very risque humour by the way, but just a life cut short and you just feel very sad about that.”
Clark said Beyer was someone who wouldn’t back down from a challenge and go into an issue with “all bells ringing” and take on anyone standing in her way.
She became the country’s first transgender mayor in 1995 when she was voted in by the Wairarapa town of Carterton.
Four years later, she won the Wairarapa electorate seat for Labour against National’s candidate and broadcaster Paul Henry – and made history again.
She held the seat for six years and she continued as a Labour list MP until 2007.
“She did it through sheer force of personality. The fact she had the desire to serve the community and do her best for people, I think people will really remember her very kindly for that,” Clark told AM.
“I think it was both a tribute to Georgina and her personal skills, the way she established herself and said ‘I’m here to do the best job I can for you’.
“The community accepted that without discrimination, that’s an incredible thing. She was a pioneer, it wasn’t necessarily easy at all to step up and do what she did close to 30 years ago.”
Aotearoa NZ Sex Workers’ Collective founder and national co-ordinator Dame Catherine Healy told AM Beyer was revered for her work all around the world.
“She is revered globally, we often would have sex workers say ‘could Georgina send us a message, we’d love to have her voice recorded and played at our conference,'” Dame Catherine said.
“It wasn’t just that she was important to us here in Aotearoa, she’s certainly a global figure, but it was my private memories that make me smile and remember her and it’s sad she’s gone too soon.”
Dame Catherine recalled memories she had with Beyer away from the spotlight.
“I think aside from the very clear public role that she had, she was a private person and I recall some private times we had. One of them was walking through her old childhood school, Wellesley College in Days Bay, just wandering and chatting about life and times and people we knew in common.”
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said at Monday’s post-Cabinet media conference that he did not know Beyer well but wanted to extend his condolences.
“I do want to extend my condolences to all those that Georgina was important and special too,” he said.
“She had a very big following within the New Zealand community.
“She was our first transgender member of Parliament, winning a general constituency seat, and making a lasting impression on the Parliament in the process. “Georgina has blazed a trail that has made it much easier for others to follow.”
Watch the full interview with Helen Clarke and Dame Catherine Healy in the video above.