Councillors and staff were deeply saddened yesterday to learn that our previous long standing mayor Don Riesterer had passed away.
Don was a tireless worker for our community and the many causes he passionately supported. One of these passions was finding better ways to deal with solid waste and Don was the driver behind Ōpōtiki becoming a NZ pioneer of zero waste. He was also instrumental in leading a council that started some large infrastructure rebuilds.
Not only was Don the Mayor of Ōpōtiki from 1989 to 2001, he was awarded Local Government New Zealand life membership in 2002 after holding the position of Vice President, being a National Councillor for three terms, a Zone 2 representative, Chair of the Nga Matakokiri Committee and Chair Rural Sector.
Staff who worked with Don at council describe him as a people's person who could communicate with everyone from a small girl who wanted to know why his nose was so big, through to the Prime Minister. When Don spoke in his deep gravelly voice, folks sat up and took notice.
They appreciated him for being a fair man who would have your back and his sense of humour made working with him a joy.
One staff member recalls her first days here when Don was Mayor and she didn't know if she should call him His Worship, His Lordship or just Mayor. In the end she referred to him as many in the community who know and love him do, as Uncle Don.
There are many more who will speak of his other roles in our community, such as his time at Ōpōtiki College and his commitment to his faith, but right now we would just like to pass our condolences on to his family. He is father of Bryan (dec), Graeme and Lyn, who have all held elected and community positions, and we're sure Don would have said his greatest achievement and proudest moments come from family.
Ka ora tonu to mana me to ihi.