Member log in

ACC architect Sir Owen Woodhouse dies aged 97 - Key pays tribute

Architect of ACC, decorated war hero, former Supreme Court judge and Privy Councillor Sir Owen Woodhouse, ONZ KBE DSC, has died age 97.

Prime Minister John Key expressed his condolences to Sir Owen's family.

“Sir Owen Woodhouse was a man whose life exemplified public service and duty to his country,” Mr Key said.

"He was a decorated naval officer in World War II, receiving a Distinguished Service Cross for operations in the Adriatic, before embarking on a long and distinguished career as a jurist at the highest level.

"He is best known for chairing the Royal Commission on Accident Compensation, authoring the Woodhouse Report, which recommended a no-fault accident compensation scheme for New Zealand. He leaves a genuinely important legacy."

Chief Justice Elias said: "Judges in New Zealand are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Sir Owen Woodhouse. He was an outstanding jurist with a passion for social justice.  He was a reformer and a great New Zealander."

Sir Owen was made an Additional Member of the Order of New Zealand in 2007, after being made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1981.

He was President of the Court of Appeal between 1981 and 1986, and was made a Privy Counsellor and member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1974.

The ACC system fathered by Sir Owen has imposed costs on employers, as dictated by the state. But the socialised insurance scheme has also spared them the kind of multi-million dollar workplace accident lawsuits that debilitate companies in the US.

Even in his later years, Sir Owen remained an outspoken, independent thinker.

Although the architect of ACC, Sir Owen was critical of the shift from his original pay-as-you-go plan to a fully-funded system in 1998.

"ACC suddenly became far more expensive when it became a funded system and that was a grave mistake," Sir Owen told NBR's Rod Vaughan in June 2012

Comments and questions
4

A humble, great and wonderful man who by such esteem shows up all the politicians who messed with his best idea. The contrast could not be more marked.

Thanks for leading us to a path of peace.

Wow. What a legacy. Every once in a while, someone has an idea that's both unique and effective. And, even more rare, gets it off the ground.

And what a travesty that it should be so thoroughly degraded by the current government.

Such kind words from a PM who's so keen to dismantle the whole shebang.

RIP.

A wonderful man who contributed greatly to NZ - rest in peace Owen.