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Paul Franklin Barber QSO, 1937 - 2016

By Kate Geenty

Paul Barber QSO died in Wellington on 4 October 2016 following a battle with Motor Neurone Disease. He is survived by his wife Kerry and daughters Nerissa and Marina.

Paul Barber's illustrious law career began as a student law clerk in 1959 at the offices of a three-partner Wellington law firm called Swan, Davies & McKay. He was first tasked with manning the reception desk, before moving on to making deliveries, then progressing to filing and preparing court documents, then research and attending clients.

His studies at Victoria University slotted in around work, with lectures in the early mornings and evenings. By February 1962 Judge Barber became a partner in the firm, which is now known as Kensington Swan. He stayed there until 1981, working as a senior commercial partner, and specialising in trust work, company law and general negotiating. Judge Barber later said he and fellow partner Ian McKay (who became Justice Sir Ian McKay) had two rules: never to do anything of significance without running it past the other; and to never turn away work of any type for anyone, rich or poor.

In addition to his demanding fulltime role, Judge Barber also managed to fit in a number of part-time positions over the years. Between 1979 and 1983 he worked as the Shop Trading Commission. This was an era when New Zealand was effectively closed for shopping between the hours of 4:30 in the afternoon until 9:30 in the morning, making it difficult for tourists to spend their money. Judge Barber extended trading hours in places like Christchurch, Queenstown and Paihia, mainly for supermarkets and mini markets and gift shops and other retailers selling tourist-friendly products like woollen items and artwork.

In late 1981, he became the Taxation Review Authority and was also appointed a District Court Judge. He also chaired the Pharmacy Board of Appeal and heard ACC appeals. In 1997 he became the Customs Appeal Authority and in 2011 he was appointed to the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal. 

In recent years he enjoyed working with Professor John Prebble QC and Grant Pearson on taxation texts for Thomson Reuters. Some of his most recent work for the publisher was as one of the general editors of a soon to be published book on property taxation written by Wellington barrister Pam Davidson. "He was one of the nicest people I've ever met, just an all-round good guy," Ms Davidson said, adding he was a very supportive and encouraging editor.

Daughter Nerissa Barber, who is the New Zealand Law Society Vice-President, Wellington, and chief legal advisor at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, said her father loved the law and loved serving as a Judge. "They say on death no one says 'thank goodness I spent so much time in the office', yet Dad did spend loads of time in the office, and he never once regretted it."

It wasn't all work and no play however. When travelling around the country hearing cases, he always took his wife Kerry, to whom he was married for over 53 years. Nerissa says when her parents first met at a dinner party it was love at first sight.

Paul Barber was a person of habit, coming home for dinner each weeknight at 6pm, playing golf at the Royal Heretaunga Golf Club on Saturdays, before attending Mass on a Sunday morning and heading into the office on Sunday afternoons.

He enjoyed gardening, was a big fan of classical music, Gilbert and Sullivan, the works of Charles Dickens and Shakespeare, loved Ancient Greek and Latin, and had a wide circle of friends. He also managed to fit in volunteer and charity work, acting as Chair of the Dr Marjorie Barclay Trust, and a volunteer at the Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre in Wellington.

He was awarded the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal. In January 2012 he was appointed as a Companion of the Queen's Service Order (QSO) for services to the State, and in June 2013 he was invested as a Knight of Malta.

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Last updated on the 4th August 2017