Gail McIntosh is described as a pragmatist, a doer, a kick butt bridge player and woman never afraid to share her opinion.
The description on the order of service at the former city councillor’s memorial service today was referred to by the family and friends who shared their thoughts and memories of a woman also described as having a laugh as big as her heart, and who will be sorely missed by friends and family.
Gail died on January 4, aged 62. She is survived by her partner Jim and siblings Heather Alan and Dean, and their families.
It was a public service at the ASB Arena with two or three hundred people filling seating in the first floors suites, but with a family feel.
Celebrant Maree Brookes is also a close personal friend through their National Party links. Maree is Tauranga MP Simon Bridges PA, and Gail was Simon’s former electorate officer managing his election days. Gail was herself a National Party MP for Lyttelton in 1990, says Simon in his eulogy.
Gail’s brother Alan provided the story of Gail’s life. Born in June 1955 at Woodville, her younger brother Alan says Gail showed a competitive streak at a young age in that he doesn’t think he ever beat her out the door from the family dairy farm for the two km cycle to the bus stop.
At Tararua College Gail’s height was an advantage, seeing her playing in the college Netball A team while in the fourth form.
Gail studied accountancy at Victoria University in Wellington, and bought her first house at age 22, helping pay off the mortgage driving a taxi on weekends.
Gail also drove trolley buses while living in Wellington and Maree told the story of how, with the streets closed for the Queen’s visit, Gail was the driver of the last trolley bus through and the trolley bus poles came off the overhead lines at the Courtney Place spaghetti junction.
In front of a crowd of thousands and while being harangued by worried police, Gail had to climb on the back of the bus to try and dislodge the poles and reconnect them, says Maree.
“All the time the police gave her such a hard time. She took off to the cheers of the crowd just as the Queen’s car came round,” says Maree.
Three weeks before her final exams the taxi was stolen along with her study notes. There was no help from the university. She borrowed some notes, narrowly failed the exam, and left.
“Because she was so furious with the system,” says Alan.
Gail lived two years in Australia, two years in England, buying a house at the Isle of Dogs in London’s East End, and travelled.
Gail returned to New Zealand in 1986 and completed her degree at Canterbury and obtained her ACA. Gail also developed an interest in politics in the late 1980s and became the MP for Lyttelton in 1990.
She moved to Thames in 1993 where Gail started her own accountancy business. She relocated to Tauranga in 2006 to be closer to family.
Gail was first diagnosed with cancer in 2012, and sold her business in 2013. After successfully overcoming the cancer Gail won a seat on the Tauranga City Council in the same year. The cancer returned in 2015, with Gail taking two months leave to concentrate on treatment.
Mayor Greg Brownless spoke of Gail’s work with the City Heart Committee which she was chair of and the close eye she kept on council spending.
He remembered the time in 2014 when Gail lost her pass on the cruise ship councillors were visiting. Without the pass they could not reclaim their passports and return to shore.
They joked that they would leave Gail on board and go to the afternoon council meeting and spend a lot of money. Gail was in fact detained, and arrived late for the council meeting, says Greg, the door bursting open and Gail demanding how much money they were spending.
“She bought a cruise on the same ship a few months later,” says Greg.
Chair of the Bay of Plenty District Heath Board Sally Webb says there was a difference in the kind of questions Gail asked after spending time in hospital following her first bout with cancer.
Gail was a hospital board member for six years. She found health accounting a bit weird and health and safety a bit PC in many ways.
But after spending time in hospital her focus was more on the people in the hospital, says Sally.
Gail is remembered as a straight shooter and a person with a sense of humour.