Patricia O'Shea (Burnett) B.A.



Motueka Borough Councillor 1983-1989

Tasman District Councillor 1998-2007


Patricia OShea

Pat O'Shea 18 February 1992. Nelson Provincial Museum, Nelson Mail Collection: C10254

Born in Matamata in 1940, Patricia O'Shea (Burnett) came to Motueka in 1961 and devoted more than 15 years to local body politics. Her career as a councillor was to have two quite distinct phases: she served firstly on the Motueka Borough Council (1983-1989) and then represented the Motueka Ward on the Tasman District Council (1998- 2007). During this time she built a reputation as someone who had worked hard for Motueka in a manner that was uniquely hers; one that combined a concern to help preserve and interpret the region's history with a desire to play a role in shaping the present and developing the district's future. When she entered local politics in 1983 she did so as the mother of four children and brought experience gained in a variety of clerical roles in the hop and tobacco industries and the local TAB. She saw herself as a representative of the average working resident. Attention to detail was the hallmark of her time on both the Motueka Borough Council and the Tasman District Council.

It was a short break from local politics taken in 1991-1993 to complete a B.A. in history and sociology at the University of Canterbury that marks something of a watershed in her career. Shortly afterwards she wrote a history of the New Zealand tobacco industry. The Golden Harvest (1997) (1).  It was from this point that she resumed her local government career while devoting much energy to advancing understanding of the region's past. She researched and wrote numerous articles about the history of Motueka and was a keen genealogist. Already a long-term member of the Motueka District Museum Trust and trustee of the Nelson Provincial Museum, she became the first chairperson (2000-2007) of the Tasman Bays Heritage Trust, established to manage the Nelson Provincial Museum on behalf of the local councils. She would later play a transformative role as president of the Motueka Historical Society.

These interests and preoccupations inculcated a desire to encourage councillors to take a 'long view' that embraced sustainability and considered the impact of their decisions upon future generations. Nowhere was this more evident than in the development of the Mapua/ Ruby Bay area. The same careful consideration of issues was apparent in her approach to council committees and most strongly within the Resource Management Policy Committee which she chaired for two terms.

Patsy's subsequent reflections upon her experiences in local government summed up her attitudes. She had enjoyed her time as a councillor and thought the variety of work it involved suited 'her easily bored personality.' It was not enough, she said, to be 'passionate about one sole issue' for a councillor's role was wide-ranging and complex. Any prospective councillor would need a firm idea of their personal principles as they would be 'dealing with competing interests all the time'. Compromises, she said, would be necessary, but 'we should not compromise our ethics (2).  This mix of realism and idealism nicely captures her own contribution to the region she had helped consolidate. Patsy O'Shea died in Motueka in October 2014.


 This was published in: Women Decision-Makers Nelson and Tasman 1944 -2018, p. 18. Compiled by Dr Shelley Richardson, Elaine Henry, Gail Collingwood, Hilary Mitchell.

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Sources used in this story

  1. 'Patricia O'Shea, The Golden Harvest a History of Tobacco Growing in New Zealand, Hazard Press, Christchurch, 1997.
  2. Newspaper clipping, October 2007, private collection.
  3. Image: Pat O'Shea 18 February 1992. Nelson Provincial Museum, Nelson Mail Collection: C10254

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Further sources - Patricia O'Shea (Burnett) B.A.



  • Praise for councillor. (2007, October 5). Nelson Mail. p.2.