'Iconic and visionary leader' Sir Eion Edgar dies

Sir Eion Edgar, Jan, Lady Edgar and their dog, Poppy, at their Kelvin Heights home in Queenstown...
Sir Eion Edgar, Jan, Lady Edgar and their dog, Poppy, at their Kelvin Heights home in Queenstown. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY

Sir Eion Edgar, a Queenstown-based investor, businessman, philanthropist, husband and father, has died at age 76.

He had been fighting pancreatic cancer since late last year.

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, in his role as Minister for Sport and Recreation, and Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult are among those to issue tributes following his death this afternoon.

Sir Eion made a big difference in New Zealand as a philanthropist in sport, education, youth, arts, sports and health.

A statement issued by his family said he passed away peacefully with his family by his side at home in Queenstown, "his paradise".

"Eion had a positive impact on the lives of many New Zealanders across the vastly diverse causes, projects and businesses he supported so passionately.

"He was a leader in philanthropy in New Zealand and brought others along with him to amplify his impact and help make New Zealand a better place. He leaves behind an enormous legacy, " the statement said.

It said Sir Eion would be greatly missed and the family asked for privacy and respect for his family and friends at "this very sad time". 

Details to celebrate Sir Eion’s life would be released in due course.

VIDEO: Sir Eion was made a distinguished fellow by the Institute of Directors at a special ceremony in April

He was the chairman of numerous charitable trusts and organisations, including the Edgar Olympic Foundation, New Zealand Dementia Prevention Trust, and Winter Games NZ Charitable Trust.

He was also an official patron of Diabetes New Zealand, the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and the New Zealand Football Foundation.

Sir Eion helped in the creation of the University of Otago's Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre, and in the creation of the southern hemisphere's largest single-building indoor sports arena, Dunedin's Edgar Centre.

VIDEO: Sir Eion on his cancer diagnosis 

He was the chancellor of the University of Otago between 1999 and 2003 and awarded Honorary Doctorate of Laws for outstanding service.

Sir Eion spent 20 years as the chairman of Forsyth Barr Group in Dunedin, until his retirement in 2018.

'A good Kiwi man'

His friend of 36 years, Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult, confirmed that Sir Eion had died about noon today.

In an emotional tribute, he called Sir Eion "a good Kiwi man".

"He's been an absolute gift to our district, and the whole of New Zealand," he said.

"I'm devastated.

"He's just been one of those people, whenever there's a been a cause Eion's been there to support it."

Sir Eion Edgar and his wife, Jan, Lady Edgar, after Sir Eion was made a distinguished fellow by...
Sir Eion Edgar and his wife, Jan, Lady Edgar, after Sir Eion was made a distinguished fellow by the Institute of Directors at a special presentation in Queenstown yesterday. PHOTO: TRACEY ROXBURGH

He was generous not only with his own money, but also in convincing others to support causes as well, Mr Boult said.

"He will be enormously missed." 

He offered his sincere condolences to Sir Eion's family on behalf of the district.

Mr Robertson said Sir Eion had made a significant impact both within and beyond the sport sector. 

“Sir Eion’s energy, drive and generosity has been truly immense.

He leaves a tremendous legacy and on behalf of all New Zealanders, I would like to extend my thanks for everything he has done and how this has benefited people and communities.

"As he would often remind people we were both Otago University graduates and share our love for the region.

"Even as a young student president nearly 30 years ago I appreciated working with Sir Eion. We may not have agreed on everything, but he was always respectful and encouraging – I will miss him greatly.”

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins acknowledged the tremendous contribution Sir Eion made to New Zealand, particularly Dunedin and the wider Otago region.

"His philanthropic efforts benefited virtually every aspect of this community, including education, youth, sports, arts and health.

"Perhaps most visibly, Dunedin’s ever-popular Edgar Centre was only made possible thanks to the passion of, and a very generous donation from, Sir Eion in the mid-1990s."

Forsyth Barr issued a statement saying it was "deeply saddened" at the death of a former chairman, colleague, mentor and friend.

It said Sir Eion died peacefully earlier this afternoon "surrounded by his family having finally succumbed to his courageous battle against cancer".

"Eion always wanted the best for the firm and encouraged everyone to take the opportunities and enjoy what we do.  He loved Forsyth Barr and seeing the firm develop."

"New Zealand has lost a truly iconic and visionary leader."

The company expressed its condolences and best wishes to Sir Eion’s wife of 50 years Jan, Lady Edgar, to his sons Jonty, Hamish and Adam and to the whole Edgar family. 

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