Former Parramatta lord mayor and state MP John Books dies

The late John Books
The late John Books

Tributes have flowed for one of the most well liked identities in local politics.

Former Parramatta lord mayor and Liberal state MP John Books died last Thursday, aged 76. Raised in Balmain by activist Labor Party parents, he qualified as a metallurgist and moved to Tasmania, where he represented the state in rugby. He was transferred back to Sydney for work, where he bought the first home in Winston Hills.

His political career began in 1968, when he was elected to Blacktown Council, where he served two terms as deputy mayor.  Re-elected in 1971, a boundary change in 1972 saw him transferred to Parramatta Council.

After serving as mayor in 1983-84, Mr Books won the state seat of Parramatta in 1988, when he defeated predecessor Barry Wilde by 300 votes. As the local MP, he successfully lobbied for the Rivercat ferry service between Parramatta and the Sydney CBD. It became Labor territory following a 1991 boundary redistribution and he lost his seat.

Parramatta Council was among the first to pay tribute.

“He was a strong advocate for Parramatta being recognised as a Lord Mayoral City which resulted in Royal Assent being granted in December 1988.  He later served as lord mayor in 1996-97,” a statement said. “Among his other achievements at council were the successful transfer of Winston Hills, Toongabbie, Northmead and Pendle Hill from Blacktown to Parramatta, and the closure of Church Street, which led to the establishment of Church Street Mall.”

He listed the railway “Y” link between Merrylands and Parramatta, tidal traffic flow on Windsor Road and the naming of University of Western Sydney (now Western Sydney University) among his achievements.

Mr Books was popular with both sides of the council chamber, according to Sydney Business Chamber western Sydney director David Borger. "I was sad to hear of John's passing," he said. “He was a real character, the type we won’t see in politics ever again.”

Mr Borger described his former councillor colleague as a champion for the community. “He wanted to change things,” he said.

“He was often brash but everyone loved him, even when he fell out with the Liberals in the later years and became an independent. He put Parramatta on the state map but the Rivercat service will be his main legacy.”

Mr Books is survived by his three children and four grandchildren. His funeral will be held at Parramatta’s St Patrick's Catholic Cathedral on Friday from 10am.

This story Loss of a local legend first appeared on Parramatta Sun.


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