The Right Reverend and The Honourable Sir Paul Alfred Reeves ONZ, GCMG, GCVO, QSO, KStJ
Paul Reeves was born in 1932 in Newtown, Wellington. His parents were D’Arcy Reeves, a motorman on the tramways and Hilda (Pirihira) Reeves (nee Sparks). He had one older brother Bill. Paul attended Wellington College and then Victoria University College where he graduated with an MA in English Literature. Once he had completed his MA he moved to Auckland to train for the Anglican priesthood at St John’s Theological College.
In 1959 after he was ordained to a curacy in Tokoroa, Paul was awarded a Sir Apirana Ngata Memorial Scholarship to study at Oxford University. In this same year he married Beverley Watkins and five days after their wedding they set off on a 5 week journey to England aboard the steamship SS Rangitata.
Paul graduated with an MA in 1962 and went on to work in parishes in Oxford, Lewisham and Lowestoft. Daughter Sarah was born in Lowestoft and in 1964 the family returned to New Zealand where Paul became vicar of Okato. It was in this small Taranaki community that he had the opportunity to live among his mother's Te Atiawa whanau for the first time and to reconnect with them. Second daughter Bridget was born while they were living in Okato.
In 1965 Paul took up a teaching position at St. John's Theological College and in 1970 he became director of Christian Education for the Diocese of Auckland.
In 1971 at the age of 38 (and now with daughter Jane) he became the Bishop of Waiapu and was based in Napier. He travelled widely and rejuvenated the diocese as well as boosting Maori participation in church governance. In 1979 he became Bishop of Auckland, then Primate and Archishop of New Zealand the following year.
In the 1980's he had a growing international role, for instance in 1983 he travelled in an Anglican group to South Africa to support Desmond Tutu who was under investigation. Paul gave evidence before the Eloff Commission.
In 1985 he was appointed Governor General by David Lange's Labour government and he became New Zealand's first Maori Governor General. Sir Paul said he modelled his governorship on the role of a bishop: ‘a bishop travels, a bishop stands alongside people and searches for a common ground’.
The Reeves brought a new atmosphere to Government House. ‘I’ve tried to hitch the house onto the life of the community’, Sir Paul said in 1990, ‘so that it flows in and out’. He joined the local Newtown Association and encouraged local communities to come up to Government House. Maori too claimed the house in a new way. When the Reeves moved there at the end of 1985, at least 100 Taranaki whanau slept in the ballroom and on several other occasions the ballroom became a wharenui.
Although most of his predecessors had reduced their public role after leaving Government House, Sir Paul launched himself into another two decades of service at the very highest levels, starting with three years as Anglican Observer at the United Nations. Later, on behalf of the Commonwealth, he observed elections in Ghana and South Africa, reviewed the existing constitution of Fiji and spent 4 years travelling to and from Guyana on behalf of the Commonwealth trying to strengthen democratic institutions like Parliament, the Select Committees and the Electoral Reform Commission.
At home, Sir Paul continued his work in many different fields. He chaired the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust and the Bioethics Council and helped to select judges for the new Supreme Court. He negotiated Treaty settlements for Taranaki. He continued his lifelong commitment to education through visiting professorships and becoming Chancellor of the Auckland University of Technology. He continued to be an active Bishop in the life of the Anglican Church. In 2007 New Zealand awarded him its highest honour, membership of the Order of New Zealand.