It was great sadness that Sideline Sid read about the passing of former Tauranga mayor Noel Pope on SunLive.

Noel was a genuine good bloke, who could comfortably mix with the top echelon in New Zealand society one day and engage with the man (or woman) in the street the next.

The four time mayor served our city well and has left a legacy of forward thinking that will last well into the future.

During his tenure in the city's top job, Noel simply rolled up his sleeves and got things done.

The Harbour Bridge and the purchase of land for Kopurererua Valley expressway are tributes to his tenacity and stewardship.

Noel also had a huge passion for sport and the transformational changes that sport could make on the futures of the young.

He was instrumental in getting rid of the unpopular (sports) ground user charges that the then Tauranga City Council imposed on many local sports codes.

He saw the charges as an impediment to the growth of sport in our city.

However, it was rugby that Noel gave countless hours of his time over the years.

The growth of the Pope family's home suburb of Greerton saw him get involved with the fledgling Greerton Rugby Club, assisting with the excavation of the original Greerton Rugby Clubrooms at Moreland Fox Park in the 1960’s.

From there, Noel moved into the clubs administration ranks, serving as President from 1968 to 1982, as the local rugby club catered for the growing number of rugby teams.

Coaching grassroots rugby at his club became a natural progression for the man who saw sport as a way of keeping young people on the straight and narrow pathways of life.

Civic duties saw Pope take a more advisory role at the Greerton Rugby Club, however, his long-time role as Club Patron kept him in touch with what was happening at the club.

He fully supported the relocation of the Greerton Rugby Club, who had by then become Greerton Marist Recreation and Community Sports Club, down the road to Greerton Park in 1990.

The long-time Greerton Marist Rugby supporter was paid the ultimate compliment for his many years of voluntary service, when he was awarded Life Membership.

Noel was also the long-time patron of the Western Bay of Plenty Rugby Sub-Union and was a great sounding board in times of contentious issues in Western Bay rugby.

This writer had a number of conversations with the former Mayor and Councilor over the years, about their shared passion for green spaces in the city precincts.

The abundance of parks and casual green spaces that are used and shared by many today, is the result of the vision of the city forefathers such as Noel Pope.

Vale Noel Pope

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian