Farewell to Hinkler icon: Vale Paul Neville, 1940-2019
HE HELD the seat of Hinkler for more than 20 years, served as the National Party whip for five and was known as a true gentleman with a wicked sense of humour.
And now the region has lost political icon and leader Paul Neville.
The former MP and National Party stalwart Mr Neville passed away in the early hours of New Year's Day at Bundaberg Hospital.
Close friends said Mr Neville had been suffering with health problems for some time.
Tributes have poured in from both sides of parliament, with former Hinkler Labor MP Brian Courtice saying Mr Neville had achieved "so much" in his political life.
"Anyone who can hold the seat (of Hinkler) for that amount of time has considerable political acumen," Mr Courtice said.
"He had his finger on the pulse and he understood politics."
Wide Bay MP and fellow National Llew O'Brien said he was "deeply saddened" at the news.
"Paul was a man of integrity, a great family man, incredibly community minded, a loyal friend and a true gentleman," Mr O'Brien said.
"He served his electorate and our nation with distinction.
Born in Warwick in 1940, Mr Neville was known as the manager of Bundaberg's Crest Cinema (now the Moncrieff Theatre) and the town's District Tourism and Development Board before launching into politics.
"In the days pre-TV I used to sit up on election night and listen to the radio and try to work out how the different seats were going," he said.
Mr Neville would go on to defeat the then-incumbent Labor MP Brian Courtice in 1993.
"A lot of the pundits said it was a Labor seat and I would be a one-term member," Mr Neville told the Chronicle in a 2013 interview.
However, Mr Neville's passion to serve his community and unmatched integrity proved naysayers wrong.
He was involved in a variety of parliamentary committees and chaired several, including Transport and Regional Services from 2002-2007.
In the 2010 election, he won every booth in Hinkler and built up a 10.4 per cent majority for his successor, current member Keith Pitt.
In 2012, aged 72, he announced he would not recontest his seat at the 2013 election.
He is survived by his wife Margaret and children Gaye, Gavin, Sally-Anne, Paul and Peter.