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Tourist, 34, killed in Hawke's Bay crash was a political trailblazer

Author
James Pocock,
Publish Date
Sun, 14 Jan 2024, 9:57am
Police have confirmed Canadian tourist Helen Poon, a trailblazing local body politician in her home country, was the final victim of NZ's holiday road toll. Photo / Cecilia Viktoria Rosell
Police have confirmed Canadian tourist Helen Poon, a trailblazing local body politician in her home country, was the final victim of NZ's holiday road toll. Photo / Cecilia Viktoria Rosell

Tourist, 34, killed in Hawke's Bay crash was a political trailblazer

Author
James Pocock,
Publish Date
Sun, 14 Jan 2024, 9:57am

A former Canadian local body politician who died after a serious crash while holidaying near Hastings is being remembered in her home town as an “iconic” personality.

Police confirmed Helen Poon, 34, was the woman who succumbed to her injuries in hospital on January 4, five days after the two-car crash near the intersection of Maraekakaho Rd and State Highway 50.

The intersection is one of three on the Bridge Pa Triangle, a renowned wine and tourism hot spot in Hawke’s Bay. The Vancouver Sun reported Poon was visiting friends in New Zealand at the time of her death.

The paper reported that Poon was in 2018 the first transgender person elected to the city council of Port Alberni, a town of roughly 20,000 people on Vancouver Island. She spent four years in the seat.

Mayor Sharie Minions on social media paid tribute to Poon’s contributions to Port Alberni.

“Outside of her professional role, Helen was a person who can only be described as iconic,” Minions wrote.

“She was indescribably unique, incredibly funny, and deeply caring.”

The Vancouver Sun reported that Poon, who ran a pub and hotel, was also renowned for her classic car collection, which included a 1970s-era Lincoln Continental Jaguar, Bentleys, a 1937 Rolls-Royce, a Mercedes-Benz 300SL, an Austin Mini, a 1938 MG TA convertible, a 1960 Lotus Seven convertible, an emerald green Dodge Viper, a Ferrari Mondial and a Porsche 930.

During her time as councillor Poon was elected to another local government advocacy role for the state of British Columbia.

The Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) wrote in a tribute that Poon, who served on its executive in 2019, was “well known in car circles for her eclectic collection of classic cars, and her willingness to drive any of them in any weather.”

Canadian tourist Helen Poon died in hospital after she was critically injured in a crash near Hastings on December 30. Photo / Helen Poon - Councillor, City of Port Alberni Facebook
Canadian tourist Helen Poon died in hospital after she was critically injured in a crash near Hastings on December 30. Photo / Helen Poon - Councillor, City of Port Alberni Facebook

Josie Osborne, a Minister in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, also wrote of Poon’s love of classic cars, cigars and fur coats in a social media tribute.

“We both ran for MLA in October 2020 and although we chose to run under different banners, it never changed the fact we both respected each other as locally elected officials, working for people,” Osborne wrote.

“After the election, she phoned me up to congratulate me, and a few days later she picked me up in a beautiful classic Mercedes Benz and we drove around a bit, shared stories about the campaign trail, then shared a cigar (of course!). That’s how classy Helen was!

“What I loved most about Helen was just how authentically and unabashedly herself she was. That fur coat, those cars, sharing cigars late at night as we all traipsed back to our hotel rooms at local government conferences.”

Poon’s death took New Zealand’s nationwide holiday road toll to 20.

James Pocock joined Hawke’s Bay Today in 2021 and writes breaking news and features, with a focus on environment, local government and post-cyclone issues in the region. He has a keen interest in finding the bigger picture in research and making it more accessible to audiences. He lives in Napier. [email protected]

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