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Murray Newton Scott - b. September 30, 1936 - d. August 12, 2022

MAYOR: Murray Scott at his desk, late 1970s.
Photo supplied

Murray Scott was one of Ōtaki’s most progressive mayors – astute, likeable, responsive to his constituents, and setting the old borough up for future growth and prosperity.

He was born in Palmerston North, the oldest of the four children of Hugh and Gwen Scott. His early years, schooling and later building apprenticeship were spent in the Manawatū, before moving to Ōtaki where he met and married Barbara Lawry in 1959.

Murray immediately set up his own building firm. He had no capital and little equipment, but lots of energy and enthusiasm. He quickly established a reputation for innovative and high-quality housing in Ōtaki and Waikanae, with a dedicated group of employees who soon realised that Murray had only one speed . . . fast! 

In the late 1960s a Wellington building boom was under way and Murray saw the opportunity to take advantage of the Ōtaki River rock, developing a concrete plant called Stresspan Industries. It made concrete beams and wall panels that were delivered to sites by Keith McCleavey on custom-built truck-and-trailer units.

The James Cook Hotel, Shell Gully Carpark, NZ Breweries and buildings at Victoria University are some of the notable sites with the Ōtaki stamp on them. At the time, Stresspan employed more than 110 staff, including engineers and other local tradespeople.

In 1976 Murray was approached by several local businessmen to stand for the mayoralty of what was still then Ōtaki Borough Council, after the death of incumbent Jack Churchill. It seemed ridiculous at the time as Murray’s time was already at a premium with a family of five children and a stressful business. However, Ōtaki was in dire need of an operational sewerage scheme, a challenge Murray took on energetically.

Despite huge alarm from the residents at an unheard-of rates rise and disruption all over the town, the scheme went ahead and after three years was completed and running, all within budget.

With this in place, Murray then set about restoring and beautifying Ōtaki, planting trees, facilitating a footpath to the beach, building rugby clubrooms and upgrading the swimming pool, to mention but a few projects.

After departing the concrete business, Murray developed a block of land off Freemans Road, known as the Mahoenui subdivision. With the enthusiastic help of sons Hamish and Tim and their mates, unique, well laid-out housing lots were established, complete with flowering cherry trees and underground services. Regrettably the timing for land sales was dismal and many of the sections were sold for a pittance, but the trees still look great.

Murray, as mayor, was concerned with the local economy and when another local businessman, Sid Edwards, was struggling to make plastic recycling a reality, Murray bought the fledgling operation. So began what is now regarded as the vitally important business of recycling waste plastic.

Expensive machinery was imported from Austria and a complex system worked out that collected waste from around the country. It was sorted, washed, granulated and pelletised, then injection-moulded into flower pots, buckets, sheeting, cable covers, etc. The Government heartily endorsed the effort and wished the venture well, but financial support was sorely lacking. After all, there was finance available commercially – with interest of 29 percent!

In 1987 Murray had a severe car crash that nearly took his life. After lengthy rehabilitation and various changes in the business arena, Murray moved his focus to using the recycled plastics in safety surfacing, primarily for playgrounds and industrial use. The resulting Matta Products is still an important part of the Ōtaki industrial scene 30 years later.

Then it was time for him to focus more attention on his real interest – helping people in difficult or unsafe situations. Together with the Crighton Trust, Murray bought the old Jubilee Hotel and after much renovation the new House of Hope included a fully equipped gym, accommodation for 10 people, and a hall, kitchen and offices. For more than 10 years it catered for many people, of all ethnicities, who needed help.

Murray’s foremost motive throughout his life was to serve others, the result of his strong Christian faith that he put into practice.

In 2004 Murray developed Lewy Body disease and spent his final nine years in the Lindale Care facility, entertaining the staff with his singing and enjoying their care and smiles.

Murray’s wife of 63 years, Barbara, children Virginia, Hamish, Bronny, Tim and Cilla, 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren remember with affection a man who was loving, generous and a huge role model to the many whose lives he touched.

– Source: Barbara Scott

Murray Scott – astute mayor who shaped Ōtaki



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