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Dr John Trolove Henderson: 3 February 1946-30 September 2019.

John Henderson died on 30 September after a long illness. His four years as Prime Minister David Lange's chief of staff (June 1985 to August 1989) was the peak of a career that had him straddle, unlike any other New Zealand public servant, university teaching ahead of and after his time on the Beehive's top floor.

John was a stalwart for this journal: he was one of the initial corresponding editors (1976-80). He contributed eighteen articles, two obituaries, including Sir Wallace Rowling's, and book reviews. He was a keen advocate for the NZ International Review, particularly by promoting it to his students. In the two most recent volumes of the NZIIA's quartet of New Zealand in World Affairs, he contributed the Oceania/South Pacific chapter.

John was a longstanding member of the NZIIA's Christchurch branch committee until he stood down in 2010, when he concluded his academic career early as his health declined. That year's branch AGM passed a motion thanking him for those many years' service, for his many stimulating talks to the branch and for encouraging his students to attend meetings.

John's academic reflections on his Lange years, along with his writings on New Zealand foreign policy and the contemporary South Pacific, leave us a substantial record. His forte was journal articles and book chapters. His single authored book was a biography in 1981 of Bill Rowling. He co-edited numerous other academic books.

It was Geoffrey Palmer who drew John to the pathway that led to his chief of staff stint. A newly elected MP in 1979, Palmer was asked by Labour leader Bill Rowling to reconstruct the party's parliamentary research unit. He came up with John, not even a party member, to head it. John was soon entangled in the push back at Lange, by then Rowling's deputy, who wanted the leadership as soon as yesterday. When Lange got the leadership in early 1983, John soon went to London to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, until Lange came looking for him when en route to Oxford for the debate.

Lange's chase of John was a no-brainer: it showed that, at least, on this occasion the new prime minister got who was right for him. He had faced off with John in the leadership scuffling and had taken on board John's tactical skills and intellect. Now that he was prime minister he was astute enough to want him at his shoulder. The appointment was processed by the State Services Commission. John reached the Beehive when the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior occurred. As Gerald Hensley, the head of the Prime Minister's Department and John's chief executive, wrote in his 2006 memoir Final Approaches, 'my own position had come to look distinctly shaky', adding that John's 'calm and practical nature helped this novel arrangement to work well enough'. A December 1988 Listener story had John assuming 'a general, rustic even shambolic air' but failed to convey how John stitched together much for Lange.

John's time as Lange's chief of staff was a high-wire act, with no safety net: he scrambled on the Rogernomics' agenda and on the foreign policy side handled top-tier developments such as ANZUS collapsed, the Rainbow Warrior sunk, New Caledonia ablaze, Fiji coups and Libyans appearing in Vanuatu. Then, there were the Australian salesmen, particularly Defence Minister Kim Beazley, who hawked ANZAC frigates. When it was all over, there was a plethora of material to digest for recollections on Lange to be pared into his major effort, a biography that became more imperative as Lange himself came up short with his 2005 memoir My Life. Its need was heightened by the appearance of the Michael Bassett and Margaret Pope accounts.

John progressed the manuscript while teaching at Canterbury. A couple of years ago his deteriorating health finally closed down his capability to conclude the task. Having had draft chapters 'test-run' past me in 2015, I believe we have missed the vital account to surpass Lange, Bassett and Pope. That complicates no end the continuing debate on what did happen in the inner-most circle of Lange's government.

John came to Wellington in March 1969, becoming Defence's first-ever historian. During this time, he wrote his master's thesis on New Zealand's defence before and during the Second World War (maybe still a classified document) in work hours. In late 1971, he went as a Commonwealth scholar to Duke University, North Carolina to do his doctorate.

A peerless keeper of the flame for Lange's legacy, John's core decoding of the man was succinct: 'what attracted him to politics was not power over others, but the stage it provided on which he could perform. The additional attraction of the foreign affairs area was that it provided a world stage.'

John was an engaging lecturer for a legion of graduate students: in return, they stumped up a bunch of masters' theses (available on line) which cover episodes from Lange's global diplomacy.

John's home was the family farm near Makara, on Wellington's south-west coast. He and Robin, his wife, long a senior civil servant, who died before John, are survived by their two daughters.
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Title Annotation:OBITUARY
Author:Ross, Ken
Publication:New Zealand International Review
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Jan 1, 2020
Words:850
Previous Article:Wellington.
Next Article:Stuart William McMillan MBE: 7 March 1933-24 October 2019.
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