Former John Paul College head girl Julia Florence dies in farm accident

Friends and family are mourning the loss of a “young woman with massive potential” who died after a tragic farm accident on Tuesday.

Julia Florence, a former head girl at John Paul College and representative rugby player, died after the accident on a rural property in Cardiff – a settlement just west of Stratford.

A written statement on behalf of the Florence whānau said: “She was a precious and much-loved sister and daughter.”

It said she “always lived life to 110 per cent” and was a “proud member” of the Ohope Volunteer Fire Brigade.

A police spokesperson said Florence died after a farm vehicle rolled on the property.

Emergency services were called to the scene on Poto Rd about 8.45pm that night.

WorkSafe has been advised and police continue to make inquiries in relation to the death on behalf of the Coroner.

John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh described the “bright, bubbly and positive” former head girl as a “young woman with massive potential”.

It was “really, really tragic” Florence’s life had been cut short, he said.

“It is devastating news.

“She was an outstanding athlete, a representative in rugby and role model. She had an infectious smile and was loved by everybody.”

Walsh said Florence had “amazing interpersonal skills and a great sense of humour”.

She had spent the duration of her secondary schooling at the Rotorua college and was named head girl in 2018.

“Our hearts and thoughts go out to the Florence family,” he said.

“Her family are deeply religious and they have an incredibly strong Catholic faith. I am sure they would appreciate as much karakia for Julia as they can get.”

Communication had been sent to staff and students on Wednesday morning after he was made aware of the incident.

“It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I let you know that a former student, Julia Florence has passed away,” the email read.

John Paul College teacher in charge of rugby Tim Hounsell said he was “pretty broken” after hearing the news.

Hounsell coached Florence in rugby from Year 9 to Year 13 describing her as a “champion for sport”.

Florence and her older sister approached Hounsell when he first started at John Paul College in 2014 requesting he help set up girls rugby teams.

“We have had success in girls’ rugby since then.”

Since starting at John Paul College the rugby whānau became a “massive part of her”, he said.

Florence also played for the Whakarewarewa women’s XV team and represented the Bay of Plenty in secondary school rugby.

In 2018 she was named the Bay of Plenty secondary schools player of the year.

“She was just an incredible young woman. An absolute beast on the field and that dedication and determination was rewarded in that final year at JPC being head girl.

“She had a lot of heart and a lot of passion for people.”

Hounsell said it was rare to find a player that loved the sport but also wanted to “give something back” to it with Florence helping coach younger students in her senior years.

“You don’t get that very much in some players. They are there to play and that’s them. But Jules always wanted to give something back,” he said.

“You asked her to do something, it wasn’t 20 per cent or 30 per cent. It was well over 100. She gave it her all.”

She also was involved in hockey, cross country, adventure racing, water polo and athletics at school, he said.

A written statement issued by the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union described Florence as an “advocate” and a “respected and valued member of all Bay representative teams” forming strong friendships through the sport.

“She was an advocate to all younger girls and promoting the game to them and simply to give it a go,” it read.

“We wish to send all our love and support to Julia’s family during this time.”

A spokeswoman for WorkSafe said it had been notified and were investigating the incident.

WorkSafe understood it occurred in the Stratford area.

“As the matter is now under investigation we are unable to comment further.”

Florence’s funeral notice said she was the “beautiful and much loved daughter of Darren and Rosie, sister to Molly, Ella, Lily, Will, Tilde, Samara and Cullum”.

Requiem mass for Florence will be held at the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hamilton followed by a private burial at Reporoa Cemetery on December 29 at 11am.

The Florence whānau have requested that in lieu of flowers people donate to the Ohope Volunteer Fire Brigade.

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