Denis O'Rourke

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Denis O'Rourke
Denis O'Rourke.JPG
Denis O'Rourke in December 2012
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for New Zealand First party list
Personal details
Born (1946-07-26) 26 July 1946 (age 70)
Christchurch, New Zealand
Political party New Zealand First
Alma mater University of Canterbury
Profession Lawyer

Denis John O'Rourke (born 26 July 1946) is a New Zealand politician and Member of Parliament representing New Zealand First. For many years, he was a senior councillor on Christchurch City Council.

Early years[edit]

Born in Christchurch, O'Rourke was educated at Christchurch West High School.[1] He studied at the University of Canterbury, graduating with a Bachelor of Laws, and went on to practise law, specialising in legal drafting, statutory interpretation and commercial law, until 1992.[1][2]

Political career[edit]

His political interest arose from his opposition to the policies of former Prime Minister Rob Muldoon.[3] O'Rourke perceived Muldoon's policies as divisive, with "incredibly oppressive regulations, absolutely awful economic policies which just drove New Zealand economy into the ground."[3]

O'Rourke was a member of the Labour Party for 19 years until 2003, when he resigned over dissatisfaction with the direction of Helen Clark's government.[3] On one occasion, he was the campaign manager when Ann Hercus successfully contested Lyttelton.[3] He joined New Zealand First in early 2010.[3]

From his local government days, O'Rourke has a reputation of a "no half-measures" politician.[3] He is known to undertake exhaustive research on his portfolios.[3] By his own claim, he has "read every word in every council report" ever put to him.[3] O'Rourke describes his political style as "forceful", whilst some others describe it as "abrasive".[3] One of his fellow councillors once publicly accused him of being a bully.[3] O'Rourke describes debating as "recreational".[3]

Local government[edit]

Plaque commemorating the redevelopment of Cathedral Square in 1998/99, with O'Rourke listed as one of the councillors

O'Rourke first joined Christchurch City Council in 1989 as a representative of the Labour Party[3] and served for 15 years until 2004.[4] For many years, he chaired the Sustainable Transport and Utilities Committee,[4] and under his chairmanship, the Blenheim Road deviation and the four-laning of Fendalton Road were major council projects. He championed unpopular projects like the Kate Valley Landfill and set up the Recovered Materials Foundation, which represented the start of kerbside recycling in Christchurch.[3]

Standing for Christchurch City Council in the 2004 local election, the year the size of Council was halved from 24 to 12,[3] he came fifth in the two-member Hagley-Ferrymead ward.[5]

Standing for Environment Canterbury (the Canterbury Regional Council) in the Christchurch North electorate in the 2007 local election, he came third in the two-member electorate.[6]

Standing for Christchurch City Council in the 2010 local election, he came second in the one-member Banks Peninsula ward.[7] In the same election, he also stood for the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) where seven board members are elected, coming 17th.[8]

Member of Parliament[edit]

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate List Party
2011–2014 50th List 7 NZ First
2014–present 51st List 7 NZ First

O'Rourke first stood for Parliament as an independent candidate for the Ilam electorate at the 1999 election.[1] He finished seventh in a field of 11 candidates, behind the incumbent, Gerry Brownlee.[9] In the 2011 election, O'Rourke contested the Port Hills electorate for New Zealand First. He came fourth and was not returned as an electorate MP, but was elected to Parliament as a list MP, having been ranked in seventh place on the New Zealand First party list. He is thus a member of the 50th Parliament.[4][10]

Business interests[edit]

Since 2000, O'Rourke was one of the Christchurch City Council representatives on the Central Plains Water Enhancement Steering Committee under Doug Marsh as chairman.[11] The steering committee, which formed a trust, was set up by Christchurch City Council and Selwyn District Council.[12] O'Rourke remained a trustee when he lost his seat on Christchurch City Council. In December 2009, O'Rourke replaced Marsh as chairman.[13]

Since 2008, O'Rourke has been chairman of a recycling plant in Opawa owned by Becon Canterbury that handles demolition waste and other commercial refuse.[14]


  1. ^ a b c Crean, Mike (15 November 1999). "Deconstructing Denis". The Press. p. 18. 
  2. ^ "Denis O'Rourke". New Zealand First Party. Retrieved 14 February 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Gamble, Warren (3 December 2011). "Winston's men ready to rumble". The Press. p. C8. 
  4. ^ a b c Moore, Martin (26 November 2011). "Two NZ First MPs for Christchurch". The Press. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  5. ^ Robertson, Max (October 2004). "Declaration of Results of Election" (PDF). Christchurch City Council. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  6. ^ "2007 elections". Environment Canterbury. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  7. ^ "Christchurch City Council – Banks Peninsula Ward". Local Elections. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  8. ^ "Canterbury District Health Board". Local Elections. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  9. ^ "How the country voted on election day". Waikato Times. 29 November 1999. p. 4. 
  10. ^ "Party lists for the 2011 General Election". Elections New Zealand. Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 14 December 2011. 
  11. ^ "Central Plains Water Enhancement: Steering Committee Progress Report" (PDF). Christchurch City Council. July 2000. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  12. ^ "Better drinking water a CPW goal". The Press. 13 May 2010. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  13. ^ "O'Rourke to chair water trust". The Press. 2 December 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  14. ^ "Putting waste to work". The Press. 2 February 2008. Retrieved 26 November 2011.