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...