Sunday 30 October 2011

Thomas (Tom) Alfred Pyne 1935 – 2011

Former Cairns Mayor, Tom Pyne, father of Cairns Regional Councillor Rob Pyne, passed away today, after a sudden stroke yesterday morning.

"Dad passed this evening," Rob Pyne said. "He lived life to the fullest. He was the most loved person I have ever known. We will all miss him so much."

Cairns Mayor Val Schier paid her respects, saying that in the 'forestry of life' a big old tree came down today.

"Tom will be mourned and remembered by many, many people," Val Schier said. "They don't make them like Tom any more: a person driven by his sound country values and genuine interest in people and public service."

"He liked to give me a bit of advice from time to time and had telephoned me several times lately, keen to see the entertainment precinct happen. He and I had something in common - we'd both beaten Kevin Byrne - and it was always good to have a yarn. He will be sorely missed. A great man," Val Schier said this evening.

Rob Pyne's partner Jenny, who supported Rob after a tragic diving accident in 1991 that left him a quadriplegic, was bracing for the tough days ahead for her family.

"Rob may need to rally all his friends and get lots of support to help him through the tough parts," Jenny Pyne said. "It was such sudden loss, I don't think any of us have had time to process it thoroughly."

Tom Pyne, born in Babinda, was awarded an AM, Member of the Order of Australia, for over 40 years continuous service, a record he shared with Sir Robert Sparkes as the longest serving Local Government elected members in Queensland.

He was Mayor of the former Mulgrave Shire, and was elected as the first Mayor of Cairns City Council following the amalgamation in 1995, where he served till 2000. Pyne was also the president of the Local Government Association of Queensland 1997, having been a senior vice president since 1988.

When Tom joined the Mulgrave council in 1961 at the age of 26, he was elected chairman, which later became Mayor in 1979. He was elected unopposed through to 1991 and in 1994 his popularity and expertise were endorsed when he received 75% of the primary vote against two other candidates.

Pyne also served as chair of the FNQ Electricity Board, and was also appointed to Queensland's Centenary of Federation Committee.

"The new Administration Centre is a major achievement of the first City Council," Tom Pyne said when the Cairns Council relocated to the Spence Street site under his watch. "It is never an easy task, but people are now seeing the benefit. The previous situation, of paying rent and staff being scattered over five locations around the City, was not conducive to good management."

Tom Pyne claims that is very proud of the Esplanade Lagoon. "The best aspect is that through extensive consultation, residents decided what they wanted," he said. "It is a beautiful project."

He often described tourism as the 'power house' of the local economy and said that lobbying by the two former Councils to ensure Cairns became an international airport had seen the area never look back. Cairns is now Australia's fourth busiest airport.

In March 2008, Tom launched his son Robert's campaign in his successful bid for Cairns Regional Council.

As news spread about Tom's passing, around 190 had already posted condolences online.
  • ''My sympathy to the whole family. The passing of an authentic legend. Will be felt around Queensland.'' - David Anthony

    ''I've lost one of my heroes tonight, our region has lost one of it's best ever leaders, and many have lost one of our dearest friends. My thoughts, and those of all my family - Warren and Linda Pitt, David and Dionne Berry - go out to Marion, Rob Pyne, Joann Pyne, and family. Tom will be enormously missed.'' - Curtis Pitt MP, Mulgrave

    "Heart and Soul of the town I love. Nite Tom. Thanks for everything.' - Greg Dwyer

    "Tom dedicated his life to the service of the Cairns community and we are all poorer for his passing." - Gavin King

    ''RIP Tom Pyne - a man of action for all of Cairns - dealt with ratepayers queries and complaints with integrity and sincerity.'' - Margaret Schokker

    ''Tom was campaign manager for the late Ray Jones, MLA when I was Ray's electorate secretary. Tom always had a hearty laugh and was always so positive as to the election results. I used to look forward to Tom's visits because he always had something funny to say.'' - Alison Alloway

    ''I'm so sorry to hear this news. I have many great memories of Tom from my school days and his regular visits to Woree High. He was one of the select few politicians who I've always respected. Thanks for your contributions to our community Tom. You will be sadly missed.'' - Mel Commerford

    ''Cairns won't be the same without you. Thanks for letting us share in your life and leaving us your legacy in Rob Pyne. 2011 has taken some very important and loved people from our lives. x'' -Tanya Brooks-Cooper

    ''I remember your Dad right back to the Edmonton shop and servo days and can honestly say he never ever left an event or passed me in the street without coming up to say hello and ask what I was doing and how my family was!'' - Lee Todd

    ''I'm a Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly because Tom Pyne believed in me and gave me a chance. In 1999, he was retiring from the Mayoralty and helping build a team to take over the city. He endorsed Max Plummer for Mayor and I got the nod to run in Division 5 which I subsequently won by 55 votes. Tom was wary of me because I am a lefty but he gave me a go. I have now been in public office for 12 years and I owe Tom a great debt. He left a legacy in this town that won't be surpassed by any politician for a long time to come. Thank you for so much Tom. My deepest sympathies to the family.'' - Jason O'Brien, MP Cook

    ''Very sad news Rob. Our deepest sympathy to you and your family. The entire region will miss his presence, his effervescence and his wonderful sense of humour. The last time I saw him, he fell off his chair laughing......what a great way to be remembered.'' -Leigh Dall'Osto.

    ''My deepest sympathies to all your family. Your father was a really wonderful man and an absolute GIANT in local government circles. All my love. - Councillor Julia Leu

    ''Incredibly sad, huge loss.'' - Janine Aitken

Rob Pyne is his father's legacy. The fighting no-bullshit way he carries out his public duties with integrity and honesty, are instilled in him from his wonderful father.

There's no doubt that Tom was immensely proud of his son when he got elected as a Councillor. His joy was obvious that his memory and life in politics would be carried on in the Pyne tradition, gave him peace and satisfaction in his later years.

''It must be in our blood,'' Tom said of Rob's election win.

Tom's ilk in politics is a rare commodity these days, one who was a true community worker and intricately connected with the business fraternity. Politics nowadays seems a race all about greed, celebrity and arrogance, where talking with the people and representing their interests, is given second-rate lip service.

I had the pleasure to meet Tom on many occasions and was humbled by his frankness and genuine support for my work with CairnsBlog. He helped me with legal action being waged against me and CairnsBlog by then-mayor Kevin Byrne in 2007. Tom told me that in all his years, he never took legal action against anyone like that and withstood much criticism over his 40 years in politics.

"You just take it with the job Michael," Tom told me. "It's part of politics to be talked about and criticised. It made me stronger."

His advice and guidance in the uncharted world on online media, even in his later years, was still extraordinary.

Tom is survived by his wife Joanne, known as Marion; daughter Joann, director of TAFE; and Rob.


Terry Vance said...

An outstanding ALP leader who helped transform a country town into a modern city along with one of his best friends, popular Labor Member for Cairns, the late Ray Jones. Tom will be missed by memory.

Hans Van Veluwen said...

RIP Tom.

Samuel Richardson, Freshy said...

This is really the passing of a great elder of the Cairns community.
thanks Mike for your lovely recollection of his more public memories and also the comments........

I note his morning's Cairns Post has a pathetic ''snippet'' about Tom somewhere hidden on page 7... truly amazing that the town's paper show such little respect for one of our great leaders, who had such a huge impact on the modern Cairns.
,... sure the qantas debacle is on there... however there';s something about insurances on page 3 and a wire store they copy and pasted on page two..

shame on you cairns post

Gerry of Gordonvale said...

beautiful tribute.

I note the words Tom shared with you - must have been gong back awhile - about legal action and blogs. kinda shocked he engaged in that but that shows he was a real human being and even after all that time he was prepared to make criticisms of the current mob - well Byrne at that stage. I doubt you were making political capital out of it because of what that dickhead councillor Blake has tried to do tto you - regardless it's a very fair point that Tom Pyne made. He was old school with a real heart and tough.... like the mayor said - he could take it......this current mob like blake CANT TAKE IT and their memory will be one of greed and ripping the community off for their own. such a contrast to the real folk who use to run for council annd public life.....

Blessings to the Pyne family

Townie guy said...

just shows the a newspaper like the post can't adapt and reflect the local community. that's all. the people are now the media

Jamie O'Donaldson said...

A great warrior the like of are rare .....very rare in politics these days... only folk like Julia Leu and of course Tom's son Rob, spring to mind.
Really puts in sharp perspective the gravy train selfish greediness like the ones we know....... and they're everywhere just in it for themselves.

JJ said...

to be fair to the Cairns Post his passing only happened yesterday

Joan of Kuranda said...

the fact that there was a tiny mention in the compost about Tom Pyne, show they *had* time but gave it little prominence another example of why so many of us take it with any seriousness
I think this was on cairnsblog late afternoon so the post could have easily paid a decent respect to one of Cairns forefathers

Rosealee said...

It's moments like this when you do take stock and reflect on your current ''representatives'' and there is such a stark different to intellect, ability, honestly and drive.

Thanks for you contribution to Cairns all those years ago that made such a difference today.

Tony Hillier said...

I'm sure the Cairns Post has only skeleton staffing at weekends — Monday's edition is usually skimpy irrespective of breaking news. Hopefully, our daily organ will accord Tom Pyne the send off he so richly deserves. I'm sure it was an enormous source of satisfaction to Tom to see his son carry on a great family tradition. My condolences to Rob and the rest of the Pyne family.

Jolly Joker, Paramatta Pk said...

They have skeletons running the place Tony? I always had a hunch...

Terry Vance said...

It must be pointed out that Tom Pyne's term in public office was during the term of Alan Hudson as Editor of The Cairns Post. Hudson ensured fair and equal treatment of all political parties and candidates. He did not engage in obsessive demonisation, week after week, to further his own political career as we have seen with Gavin King. Mackenzie did not arrive until the early 1980s and immediately made a target of Tom once his very close mate Kev Byrne embarked on a public career. For most of Tom's career, there was no internet, hence no bloggers. Tom's career therefore occurred during the impartial media times, when as Mayor he did not see his public office ridiculed and mocked, he was not lampooned, vilified and forced to pay "cash for comment", nor did he see the community of Cairns stroked and incited into the rancorous polarised groups they are today. The media helps shape and make the community leader. Tom's popularity was shaped by the impartial media of the time.

Alison Alloway said...

Alan Hudson as Editor of The Cairns Post was not the type to trash the office of Mayor, nor demonise public figures. Mayors, Members of Parliament, and candidates for public office were all treated fairly and with respect. However John Mackenzie showed no such restraint when he went after Tom Pyne over the new Council offices in Spence Street. Mackenzie dubbed it, "Tom's Taj Mahal", "a memorial to an ego" (now where have we heard that?) and, wait for it...."A WHITE ELEPHANT".! Tom himself mentions those spiteful sneering insults in the interview in "Cairns Life" ,found on Rob Pynes website THE ROCK NEWS.
I remember the furore whipped up by Mackenzie well, as Tom had displays of the new building placed all around the city and implemented avenues for people to provide ideas, suggestions and feedback. There were also several public meetings as well after Mackenzie roared away day after day that there had been "no public consultation." Mackenzie also went after Tom when he proposed redeveloping the Cairns Esplanade, and the usual ragtag of knockers, whingers, whiners and malcontents were all quickly sparked up bellyaching away that the monies should be spent on roads or the hospital. (Mackenzie had led the campaign against a new hospital back in 1995.) Mackenzie backed away on the esplanade redevelopment, despite initially trying to derail it, as the proposal was too popular with the locals and tourist bodies.
Tom Pyne found a fair, impartial Editor in Alan Hudson of The Cairns Post, but John Mackenzie was always looking for opportunities to discredit him.

Syd Walker said...

A nice tribute to a local legend who was clearly well-loved - and some very interesting comments. CairnsBlog at its best.