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High tea celebrates ‘Queen Mother’ Janet Clews’ 50 years in local government

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Janet Clews' 50 years in local governmentA group of some of Auckland’s more eminent citizens, including Mayor Len Brown and Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, gathered for high tea at Waikumete Cemetery, to celebrate Janet Clews’ 50 years in politics. Ooops. ‘Public service’.

Mrs Clews CNZM, QSO, JP was first elected in 1963, becoming the youngest woman councillor in New Zealand’s history at that time and signed off on her local Government career last year, after 50 years. In 1983 she became Mayor of Glen Eden (and West Auckland’s first and only woman Mayor), and in 1989 a Waitakere City Councillor. She held this position for 21 years from when the city was founded until 2010 when it was folded into the super city. Among many roles at Waitakere Council, she was chairman of the Finance Committee.

She served in to last October as Deputy Chairman of the Waitakere Range Local Board.

Most recently she has been appointed to Auckland Council’s Senior Advisory Panel which will support the needs of the cities older citizens.

She was also a founding trustee, and one time president, of the Portage Licensing Trust of which she is still a member. She is also a director of West Auckland Trust Services Ltd, the commercial company that manages The Trusts various retail and hospitality businesses.

In 2011 she became one of only 40 New Zealanders to be admitted as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Tributes were paid by Mayor Brown, former Waitakere Mayor and now Waterfront Auckland chairman, Sir Bob Harvey, Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, Waitakere Board administrator and former community board member Sharon Davies and former Waitakere councillor and Waitakere Local Board chairman, Denise Yates.

Ms Yates was one of a number who paid tribute to Mrs Clews with a poem. Sir Bob Harvey, who many years ago dubbed Mrs Clews the “Queen Mother of Waitakere”, quoted the ‘Dammit Janet’ song from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. He also said that as a Glen Eden resident and advertising agent, he had approached Mrs Clews when she was Glen Eden Mayor, and suggested changing the name of Glen Eden.

“She told me to get out,” he said to laughter. She responded that, in fact, she had approached Sir Bob to come up with a new name and he had come up with Kaurilands, which couldn’t be used because Kaurilands was nearby but not in the borough. “My story was better”, Sir Bob quipped. “Your stories always are”, she retorted.

Janet Clews was accompanied to the high tea by her two surviving sons, Geoffrey and Andrew. In paying tribute to his mother, Geoff told the 65 guests that this was the second similar event to honour his mother and they were starting to be referred to in the family as “living wakes”.

Mrs Clews lost her husband Ernie two years ago, after 58 years of marriage. The couple lost their third son David who died in 2007 after achieving international fame as a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon who separated conjoined twins. He was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.