Bob Clarkson

Influential businessman, sportsman, and politician—often controversial. Bob Clarkson did not sit around and wait for things to come his way.

From humble beginnings, Clarkson became a force to be reckoned with in the Bay of Plenty. Some would say his greatest gift to the Bay of Plenty is the Baypark Stadium (now known as the Trustpower Baypark Stadium) which he finished building in 2001, at a cost just shy of $15 million of his own money. The stadium has been home to various sports, including speedway racing, rugby, and football. He sold the stadium to the Tauranga council in 2007.

In 2020, Clarkson offloaded his extensive industrial and rural property portfolio for $200 million in one of the biggest property transactions ever in the Bay of Plenty.

The early years

Born on 25 March 1939 in Gisborne, Robert Moncrieff Clarkson was raised on his parents’ diary farm near Gisborne. He attended Gisborne Boy’s High School for two years before, at age fifteen, he left school to qualify as a fitter and turner in 1958.

At first working in the family tractor business, Clarkson later went to the Waikato where he assisted as an engineer in carving out Kaimai Tunnel. Eventually, he began selling and servicing tractors in Matamata. He made the bulk of his money importing and fitting V8 motors from the United States. After nine years, he moved into commercial building and construction.

Provincial hockey, Olympics, stock car racing, and dragster titles

Clarkson played field hockey for the Poverty Bay provincial team. He was standby goalkeeper for the New Zealand team that took gold at the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics in 1976.

His interest in cars and racing saw him become a member of the New Zealand Stock Car Racing Team from 1968 to 1971. He also held seven New Zealand/Australian titles in drag racing between 1972 and 1975.

Member of Parliament

Being a long-time member of the National Party at the time, he was recruited to contest the Tauranga seat against Winston Peters in 2005. Peters had held the seat for 21 years.

Bob Clarkson won the seat with a 2.02% (730 votes) lead over Winston Peters. Most notably, he was the National Party Associate Spokesperson, Building and Construction and Associate Spokesperson, Housing, both from 2005 to 8 November 2008. He resigned from his political career in 2008. In 2011 he defected to Act, but never represented the Act Party in an election.

Courting Controversy

Clarkson’s outspoken nature has often invited controversy. Winston Peters accused Clarkson of spending more than is allowed on his campaign. However, the high court found in Clarkson’s favour.

Although some of his comments, both in parliament and various interviews, offended various groups he has never been one to shy away from saying what he thought, even if it did result in him sometimes ending up in ‘hot water’.

He wanted to develop a multi-million-dollar residential community (2000-odd houses with 500 ‘discounted’ to be affordable homes for Tauranga families) alongside the Wairoa River, but was held up by rezoning and consenting issues which eventually forced him to let the ambitious plan go.


Bob Clarkson was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Philanthropy, Industrial Properties, and the Sports Stadium 2003.

Published by BOP Business Publications
Published by BOP Business Publications
Publisher: Bay of Plenty Business Publications Limited, PO Box 155, Tauranga 3144 info@bopbusinessnews.co.nz, www.bopbusinessnews.co.nz

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