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Icon of the West: Assid Corban


Assid Corban

When 88 year old Assid Khaleel Corban OBE, JP, was asked recently why he had devoted so much of his life to public service, he replied that his grandfather, Assid Abraham Corban, the Lebanese founder of Corban’s Wines, had told
him that if you wished to live in a country you had to be
prepared to put something back.

Assid took that to heart, giving (so far) a cumulative total of 131 years to politics, and another 100 years to orchids and horticulture. He also served a variety of different community organisations for at least another 20 years. That doesn’t include the 30 years he had in the wine industry.

He and Miriam, his wife of 65 years, have been a team in all things. Miriam was Assid’s mayoress for 18 years. As she has said, “In those days you got two for the price of one”.

Assid has served West Auckland local politics for 51 of the last 57 years. First elected as a Henderson Borough Councillor in 1956, he served for three years. He returned in 1965, commencing 48 years of continuous service. He was Henderson Deputy Mayor for three years, Mayor for 15 and for the three years 1989 to 1992, was the first Mayor of Waitakere City. He served as a Waitakere City councillor from ’92 until 2010 and rounded out his council career with three years as deputy chairman of the Henderson Massey Local Board. In addition he continues to serve on the Waitakere Licensing Trust (of which he was a Vice president) having been first elected in 1995.

Nor was he just a local politician. he served the Auckland Regional Authority among other regional bodies and served politics nationally through eight years on the Local Bodies’ Association and other organisations with a national reach. “I am proud that I was able to make a difference will beyond the boundaries of Henderson,” he said recently.

Without doubt, the biggest achievement of his years in politics is the fact that Henderson, a tiny borough when Assid was first elected, is today classified as one of Auckland’s key regional centres. However, perhaps his most immediately obvious achievement is the West Wave Aquatic Centre, built for the 1990 Commonwealth Games.

In 1988, Assid leapt at the chance to secure a share of the regional fund created for the games and this, added to a local contribution, saw Henderson build what was then possibly the fastest Olympic pool in the world. In tribute, Prime Minister David Lange said at the opening, “these pools shall hereafter be known as the Assid Baths”.

He is proud of securing the land for the Henderson Bowls Centre that, in 1988, hosted the World Bowls Champions and this month hosted The Trusts New Zealand Bowls Open. The development of Auckland’s Regional Parks – including the Manukau Botanic Gardens – during his 17 years on the Auckland Regional Authority, six as chair of the Parks Committee, is another success he is proud of.

He was also, from 1978 to 1987, a Foundation Director and Executive Member of the QEII National Trust.

Alongside his political career, Assid and Miriam have developed a major orchid growing business. Assid has duly given more than 50 years service to the Orchid Society of New Zealand (of which he is a life member) and a similar service to the Auckland Horticultural Council.

He was made an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1988 and is a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Horticulture.

In his spare time (does this man sleep?) he has been very active in preserving Henderson’s history, particularly his family’s and the area’s winemaking heritage for which he has developed a niche museum – and has been a Trustee of the Corban Estate Arts and Cultural Trust since 2001.