Whittaker, Jeffery William (Jeff) Interview

Today is 25th September 2015. I’m interviewing Jeff Whittaker of Havelock North and now of Eskdale, to talk on the life and times of his family in Hawke’s Bay.

Sure, Frank. On my mother’s side the Wakemans arrived in Wellington, and had to wait for the track to be cut through the Forty Mile Bush to take up their landholdings in Pahiatua. Great grandfather was Mayor of Pahiatua. The family there subdivided and developed much of Pahiatua, and my grandmother was born in Pahiatua, where she met my grandfather.  Now my grandfather … his father was a George Jeffery who arrived in Dunedin, 1862. He tried to get a job in Dunedin but he was Anglican, and as the story goes the Presbyterians wouldn’t employ him. [Chuckles] So he then moved to the goldfields, to Roxburgh, and decided that digging gold was a fool’s game, so he decided to supply the diggers with groceries and newspapers. He then joined a general merchant there, and after a few years decided that he would become a pharmacist;  so George Jeffery was the first pharmacist in the line of things. He went on to be Mayor of Lawrence, and did a lot of work in and around Lawrence – that’s where his pharmacy was. He had three sons;  two of those sons went on to be pharmacists, and some of his son’s sons were pharmacists in Roxburgh.  However, my grandfather then shifted to Dannevirke, and then he shifted to Pahiatua;  and then subsequently started a pharmacy in Te Awamutu, ’bout 1920 from what I can gather. He obviously married my grandmother, who was Laura Wakeman, and they had three daughters;  and of course my mother came from Te Awamutu.

On my father’s side, my great grandfather arrived out in 1862 or round about. He was a farmer – he went to Clevedon in Auckland, cleared a lot of land of the trees. He cleared his own farm.  And he had seven children;  one of them was my grandmother. My grandmother had to leave school when she was in the fourth Standard to look after her brothers and sisters. And I’m not sure how it happened but she took up a job as a waitress while working for New Zealand Railways, and she was in Taumarunui when she met my grandfather.  Now, my grandfather Whittaker came from the docks in East London. His father, and his father before him, were sail makers, and Frank was twelve years old when both parents died. They didn’t know what to do with Frank, so decided since they were in the … sort of the shipping business, they would send Frank to sea as a twelve year old cabin boy. So Frank really had no formal education, and he sailed out of London, he sailed the world, finishing up as a ship’s cook. He came to New Zealand and then worked the coastal shipping from Auckland to [the] West Coast and Nelson.  And one of the things that he remarked to me was that there was a dolphin that used to guide the ships through the channel when he was in the South Island. I always thought that he referred to [the] Tory Channel, but one day I was sailing through French Pass and I suddenly realised that that was where the dolphin had guided the ships;  and the reason for that guidance [chuckle] was quite clear when you saw the currents.

Was this Pelorus Jack?

Pelorus Jack, yeah. And my grandfather used to tell me endless stories about how he led that ship, and how he’d make sure they missed the whirlpools. I never realised until I actually did it myself.

He went to Wellington;  he left the ship, signed off.  He was [had been] on the ‘Penguin’, and the ‘Penguin’ took a new cook, sailed out of Wellington and sailed into the rocks – can’t think at the moment of the reef that they struck. And I think it was something like two hundred and sixty people lost their lives, including the ship’s cook. So had it not been for grandfather signing off, I wouldn’t be here.

He took a job at a hotel;  and then took a job at the Wellington Railways, and opened the restaurant in the Railway Station there in Wellington. As the cook for the Railways they shifted him to Taumarunui to start a restaurant there, and that’s where he met my grandmother. They married and then shifted to Frankton Junction where he opened the Frankton Junction Railway restaurant. [At] one stage he was cooking two thousand meals a day. Frank, starting as a cabin boy, finished up cooking for Royalty because he was the Railways Chef, and everybody that came to New Zealand travelled by rail. And he cooked for Eisenhower;  he cooked for endless dignitaries that [who] came through, and one of the royals that [who] came through. So yeah, he really amassed a fair record of cooking for special people, and of course travelled from one end of New Zealand to the other on the trains. Finally he finished up cooking for the Queen in [on] her first visit to New Zealand;  he organised the meal and supervised it at Cardrona in Hamilton. So that was the peak of his career.

So my grandfather, Frank, and my grandmother, Jane, had one son and that was my father. And my father was pretty keen on surfing, and being a boy he went to Tauranga and camped at the Mount, and burnt himself with a lamp or a cooker. He finished up in the Waikato hospital, and my mum was a nurse there and they met and of course got married.  My father, as you can imagine, was working class. My grandfather could do basic arithmetic – obviously could add up to two thousand people if he had to, and knew how to order food for that number, but basically he had no education;  and of course my grandmother came from farming stock.

On my mother’s side, they were professional. My grandfather in Te Awamutu was a JP, [Justice of the Peace] he was a member of the council;  he was respected. In fact I met people after he’d died who told me that in the Depression he would supply medicine free to those who couldn’t afford it. He got involved with the Tainui, and Princess Te Puea;  and she was ill towards the end of her life.  He did a lot for the Māori people, and Princess Te Puea recognised that involvement.

This is while he was in Te Awamutu?

Well, he died in Te Awamutu.

Well that’s the King Country, isn’t it?

Yes.  But it was the Tainui people in Ngāruawāhia. I didn’t know a lot of that until just recently when I was researching a piece of greenstone that was given to Grandfather, and that was in recognition of his …

Just interesting listening to your story of your forebears – you made a comment about, you know, they were just ordinary people, but I mean ninety-five per cent of people were;  they were all working.

That was life. I mean my father had nothing when they started off, and I don’t know how my memory retains it but I can remember by grandmother saying to my mother, “Well, Estelle, you picked your bed and now you have to lie in it”;  when she was obviously pointing out they didn’t have a lot of money.

Dad was called up and he went to Norfolk Island for his training; and two days before they were to depart to Guadalcanal he was playing touch rugby – he was a Waikato representative rugby player – and broke an ankle, or a bone in his ankle, and was hospitalised. As I understand it, ninety-five per cent of his platoon were wiped out in Guadalcanal.

That was an act of God, almost.

[Chuckle] Well, I was pretty lucky. So he came home – he’d worked for Dalgety’s before he left – he came home and milked cows at Ruakura until Dalgety’s offered him a job selling pigs in the sale yards in Frankton Junction. I was staying with my grandmother who had a house in Wha Street, next door to the sale yards, and a tornado came through. And Dad was selling the pigs a hundred metres away from where the tornado came through; my grandmother was sitting in the grocery store across the road from the sale yards, and the walls were blown out, and she was left sitting in a chair [chuckles] in the middle of the store, and my father could see her sitting there.  [Chuckle] And we lost a few sheets of iron off the roof. [Chuckle] Yeah, so that was Dad – he went on to be Manager of Dalgety’s in Whakatāne, and then went on and was Manager of Dalgety’s for about twenty-four years in Wairoa.

So you’re a Wairoa person as well?

I never lived in Wairoa, I only stayed there. It was decided that if I wanted to go into pharmacy … I know my mother wanted to be a pharmacist, but you know, they just … you didn’t do that.

Well, with her background I could see why – she came from a long line of pharmacists.

Pharmacists, she did. And so one day she asked me what I thought I ‘d like to be or do; and one of my family, who I called Uncle … Uncle Elmer Conlon … had fought in the First World War, been awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre for his bravery. And he taught me all about carpentry and how to use tools, and I guess he was my surrogate father when Dad was away. And Mum said, “Well what would you like to do?” And I said, “Oh, I really would like to be a builder … actually a cabinetmaker would be what I’d be pretty keen on.”

Well just before you take up … your main schooling was done where? 

Well it follows on, because she said, “Yes, you’re pretty handy with your hands. I tell you what, you should be a pharmacist and then you can go and be a cabinetmaker, because then you’ll have the backing to be a cabinetmaker.”  So I thought, ‘Oh, that was a pretty generous thing to suggest.’  So not giving it any real thought in depth, I said, “All right, I’ll be a pharmacist.” So Mum said, “Well we live in Whakatāne – they don’t teach Latin, so you’ll have to go to Hamilton Boys’ High School where your father went, and you can learn Latin.”  So I left home when I was thirteen to live with my grandmother, so my education was Hamilton Boys’ High School;  I had four years there and then I did an apprenticeship with Jeff Warren, a pharmacist in Victoria Street in Hamilton.

My first day at school … well, [I] came across from Whakatāne with some of Dad’s clients, [was] dropped off at my grandmother’s with my bike.  Climbed on my bike as a thirteen year old [and] biked to the school, and Rob Tait the headmaster, who had coached Dad at rugby and been his headmaster, said to me was I going to play rugby, and I said, “Well I’d like to”, but I’d never handled a rugby ball. Dad never played rugby with me, and yet was a rugby fanatic.  And so, yeah, he said well, what did I want to do, and I said, “Well I want to be a pharmacist.” So he said, “Well, you’re 3A” – there was [were] three hundred and twenty boys I think, enrolled – “and we’re new school”, so he said, “We’ll see you next week across at Peachgrove School.”  So I rode my bike; I think it was five miles from where we lived to the school, and didn’t know anybody. And that was the start of my education.

So the pharmacy was a hard road. I was one of the last to go through an apprenticeship scheme. You got paid peanuts – I suppose they had monkeys anyway – and you had night school three nights a week; you worked Friday nights and you had correspondence course with the School of Pharmacy in Petone, or Wellington; and then you spent three weeks a year down in the College with Practical. My pharmacist apprenticeship to Jeff Warren – [he] made everything from scratch, a very bright guy.  Hard to work for – he used to call me Oscar – and he had a stutter. And I must say that I didn’t always come up with the answers, but by the time J-J-J-J-J-Je-Jeff-Jeff ha-ha-ha-ha-had his question out, [chuckle] I had the answer. [Chuckle] Yeah, so he was a very hard taskmaster and I don’t think he expected that I was going to qualify, but I did pass my exams the first time and I became a pharmacist.

How long did it take those days?

Four years.

And that allowed you to go and dispense on your own?  Or did you have to work under someone?

I had to work under him. But then you were fully qualified as a pharmacist. And when they opened the School of Pharmacy it was virtually the same curriculum to start off with, but you did everything practically.

So during your pharmacy training did you play any sports?

Yes, I did. When I was at school I realised that I wasn’t fast enough on my feet, but also that I hadn’t, like many boys, handled a football. I know that I played schoolboy rugby at school and on Saturdays, and I didn’t have any rugby boots; we just used to play in bare feet on the frosty ground, and I wasn’t fast enough.  My position was as lock in the scrum, so I virtually never got to handle the ball anyway. And after two years I decided that was a mug’s game, ’cause all I did was run around the field after everyone else. [Chuckle] And I decided that I’d take up rowing, which was a school sport. Dad arrived across at the end of the second year and said, “Oh son, I’ve bought you a pair of rugby boots.”  And I said, “Well Dad, you’d better come down and see me row”, which he never did, but I finished up rowing in the school fours, and then the eights, and that was my sport at school. So that’s where, yeah, I got diverted, and I also got involved in roller skating, speed skating, dance skating. I held the Waikato speed skating title over sixteen miles I think, at one stage. So roller skating did play a big part in my life, as did rowing because I rowed after I left school.

I qualified, and because I’d had such a rough time with my apprentice master I was very happy to take a job pretty quickly away from Victoria Street.  And Te Aroha was my first job, for a fellow called Smythe. And what I didn’t appreciate was that I was manager in name only. He had an unqualified pharmacist who was his sort of partner. Smythe was sick;  he didn’t actually work, and all I did was really rubber stamp what Masters did. Masters was a fiery sort of a character, and I used to do my own thing, because I thought, ‘Well I’m a pharmacist; I can make creams and dispense what I want to.’ And I have a hand cream which I still make in the pharmacy;  and I made this hand cream up in Te Aroha. And one night I came back from my tea, ‘cause we always worked Friday nights, and Masters confronted me with a Bowie knife, and said I was going to tell him what was in that cream. I went around one side of the table and he went around the other, and when I got close to the door I was out that door faster than greased lightning.

He was unqualified; he wanted …

He was unqualified, wanted my cream – he wasn’t going to get it. And as an aside there – when I went to Te Aroha the place was infested with cats. At one stage I counted a hundred and twenty cats, which some oddball fed irregularly out the back of the pharmacy, and the smell was incredibly rancid. Anyway, one day I decided that we were going to have less cats so I set up a whole series of baits using Seconal sleeping capsules.  And next day I came to work [chuckle] and there was consternation, with two vets trying to figure out why …

The cats were all asleep!

… yeah, why these cats were drunk and going to sleep. [Laughter]

So you didn’t go back there?

Oh yeah, yeah, no – he was okay when he was sober. And I’d been there a year and the Public Health pharmacist came across – nice guy – and he said to me, “Jeff, we’re going to close Smythe down.”  ‘Cause I’d told them that I was the manager [in name] only; in fact I wrote to the Pharmaceutical Society and said, “How do I handle this situation, because I know that things are irregular.” And the advice from the Pharmaceutical Society was, “Oh, you just move – you just get another job.” And I said, “But that doesn’t overcome the situation that exists.”  Turned out that the secretary [of the] Pharmaceutical Society ran it – he was a mate of Smythe, went to school together – so he wasn’t going to put Smythe’s pot on. Anyway, the Public Health pharmacist came in and he said, “Jeff, you’ve got two weeks to get out.” He said, “I’ve got you another job in Morrinsville ’cause we’re going to close him down, but it’s not your fault;  we want to have you with a clean slate.” And I started work a week later in Morrinsville. In the afternoon of the day I started, [the] Public Health pharmacist called in and said, “Yeah, well it’s closed down now.” And it was closed ’til they found a buyer for it.

So then I worked in Morrinsville for a very short period of time, and the Public Health Pharmacist came in. He said, “I think I’ve got you a job you can apply for as a manager of the Urgent Pharmacy in Hastings.”  So I had a real beat up old Hillman car – climbed into that one day and came across to Hastings;  had to ask the way at Clive how to get to Hastings;  met the directors of the Urgent Pharmacy;  they gave me the job and they put me up for the night in the Albert Hotel. [Chuckle] First place I ever stayed was the Albert Hotel.

And your son pulled it down.

And I went and stood in the room where I stayed, just before he pulled it down. So I shifted the family to do the Urgent Pharmacy, and started work there, but I must say that that wasn’t a bed of roses.

Where was the Urgent Pharmacy?

In Queen Street adjacent to the bakery … Baker’s Delight is it now, that’s there? It was on the north side of Queen Street and it was right beside the Group Theatre.

So were you after or before ..?

Andy Duncan, after him. Andy Duncan was an absolute pillar of society, and Andy used to work every hour that God gave him for the Urgent Pharmacy, and he did a very good job; he was a very hard act to follow.

One evening – it was [a] Saturday night – I closed the pharmacy at nine o’clock, and I went around the corner and got a takeaway. And I came back, and Graeme Masterton, a doctor – he’d been in and I had not been there. Next thing, at ten o’clock I got a phone call from Graeme Masterton saying where the hell was I, because he needed a prescription. He complained to the Directors of the Urgent Pharmacy; I got hauled up and they said they were going to fire me for dereliction of duty. And I said, “Well surely I’m entitled to dinner … time off to get a meal?”  ‘Cause I was on call all night. And they told me no; I was contracted to them for every hour that they were closed.  So I said, “Well okay; I’m sorry, but I went to get a meal.”  They were thinking it over, so I went to the Labour Department, and the answer was very simple – for every hour I was contracted to the Urgent Pharmacy and expected to be on call, I should be paid. And I think from memory it came to some £20,000 [chuckle] at the time, ’cause all you did was took forty-four hours out of the week, [chuckle] and the rest of it I was supposed to be paid for. So I came back to them and I said, “Look I’m sorry, but I think you owe me some money”, and they decided on the spot that they would keep me on. [Laugh]

They didn’t send someone down to look after the place while you were [chuckle] having a meal?

No, they agreed that it was [a] pretty tough call. But the funniest one was that they built on a room at the back of the Urgent Pharmacy for us. And one of the first children, or young people I saw in Hastings was when Andy Duncan showed me around the house. He opened the door and turned all the lights on, and there was Robbie Duncan and Wendy Duncan asleep in their beds.  And I said, “Oh – you’re going to wake them up.”  He said, “No, they won’t wake up – this is their bedroom.”  So I got introduced to Wendy and Robbie while they were asleep.

Moved in, and the Group Theatre was having their first opening night … they were running their first play. And the play was ‘Murder She Cried’, and they would have thunder and gunshots at rehearsals [at] two o’clock in the morning. And while I could take it – I was working seventy hours a week sometimes – the family were pretty distraught. So I asked them to cool the noise, and I was told that they were in a [an] industrial area and they could do as they liked. [I] went to the Police and they said, “Well if you can’t join them, then make your own noise.”  So I said, “Well, thank you very much.” So I went off; and one night they were making a heck of a racket, and I went out the back and I thought, ‘I’ll have to get them to stop.’  And I put my hand into Andy Duncan’s cactus garden and instead of getting some pebbles I got a rock, and I hoofed it at the back door. And [chuckle] suddenly light appears through the back door – I’d put my rock right through the back door. And then Patrick Dingemans comes dancing out [chuckle] – he comes dancing out, said you know, “No – well you’ll have to stop it; you’ll have to stop it.” I said, “Well I’ll give you one too.”  So any rate they did stop it, and the next night was [were] back to it again.  Oh, the Police came round, but by the time the Police came there in the morning I’d repaired the door. And so I got a warning, but they said, you know, “If they won’t come to terms you’re entitled to do whatever you like.”

So the first night of the play was a Saturday night, and Mrs Mason came in … Ann Mason, she was my assistant. And she wouldn’t stay, but she sat in her car outside. So at nine o’clock that night I set up … well, had set up … two speakers that I got off [from] Johnny Morris, another pharmacist;  he used to play in a band, so I had his amplifier and his speakers [chuckle] and I played, ‘Why Do the Nations Rage so Furiously Together’ full blast at the back door. [Chuckle] Well, [chuckles] some of the Group Theatre were out there on the footpath running up and down, and the Police arrived; and I looked out the window and the Police were chatting there and shook their heads and continued to sit there. Then the Directors of the Urgent Pharmacy arrived and their comment was, “Well Jeff, you made a point.” [Chuckle] “I think you’d better cut it out.”  So I was happy to do that because obviously the point had been made. They made me an honorary member of the Group Theatre the next day …

Did they?!

Yeah – and promised that they would never [chuckle] have their rehearsals ’til so late again. And next evening I’m looking out, and Michael Bostock – Doctor Michael Bostock – pulls up in his racy little car.  Now Michael’s wife, Elizabeth, was a bit of an actor, and she had the lead role in the play, which was ‘Murder She Cried’. And there was Michael Bostock [chuckle] coming across the road. [Chuckles] ‘Oh, here’s a dust up’, [chuckle] and there was nowhere for me to run. [Chuckle] He came charging through the front door, threw the front door open, strode through as Michael could, straight out to the dispensary. I’m standing in one corner. He walked up to me and he said, “Congratulations, Jeff!” He said, “D’you realise? Elizabeth forgot ten minutes of the play”, [laughter] “at last.” [Laughter] And Michael and I’ve been friends ever since. [Laughter]

Oh, isn’t that a wonderful story? Were you married while you were ..?

I was married during my apprenticeship, which was a mistake.

So at that stage you ..?

Catherine. Catherine came here as a baby. Yeah, it was a real mistake. I should’ve done what they did in those days and walked, but I didn’t;  and it made life pretty difficult.

So, I’d been there eighteen months, and I worked for Dennis Goldman.  And Ed was working for Donald [Syme]. And the atmosphere between the two was … you could cut it with a knife. And I thought, ‘Well hell – there must be a place for me in the middle of all this.’  So I thought, ‘Well, I’ll have a pharmacy in Havelock North.’  And then I tried to rent a building which Treacher had used as a finishing factory for his joinery; it’d been a butcher’s shop prior to that, and it had a dairy next door.  I approached Sir Edwin Bate who was acting for a Mrs Gobie, who owned the premises. He said, “No, you can’t rent it, but you can buy it.” I said, “Well, Edwin”, as he was then, “I haven’t got the money to buy it.”  He said, “Well how much could you find?” And I said, “Well I have to think about it.”  He said Wilf Lester had made them an offer – a crazy offer of less than Government valuation for it – so if I liked to consider an offer larger than Government valuation … and he told me the Government Valuation was £4,000 … Mrs Gobie’d be very happy to hear from me. So I went back to him and said, “Well look, Edwin, I can find £400 if I sell my boat that I built.” He said, “All right”, he said, “well I’m sure Mrs Gobie could leave the rest of it in for you.”  So he arranged the mortgage; I bought the place for £400; I spent three months building all my own fixtures [with the] help of a bloke called Bill Merton. Now Bill’s kidneys had been affected in the War;  sulphonamides had done the damage, so he didn’t believe he should have to work, so he was quite happy to help me behind the scenes. He and I literally built all the fittings. [I] ran into a guy called Ernie Wiggins, and we needed a new verandah because at Christmas one of the kids had been driving round the roundabout, hit the bus, and the bus had finished up underneath the verandah and the verandah had been demolished. I was able to get insurance for the …

Demolished verandah?

… demolished verandah. [Chuckle] And Ernie Wiggins put the verandah on the building for [at] no cost to me. So I opened in [19]64, and I can still remember walking home after five days, working it out in my head and I realised I’d made a profit, so I was going to stay in business.

And this is when you were living in Te Aute Road?

Yep. We were in Te Aute Road for about three months in Custance House. And Peter Gifford was the solicitor for Custance, and I figured out that it was going to be touch and go. And Peter Gifford rang me one day and said was I making money? Was I going to be able to pay the rent?  I said, “Well Peter, here’s the figures”, and he said, “Well, do you think you’re going to be able to pay the rent?” I said, “Well, I’m not sure.”  He said, “Well that doesn’t leave us in a very good position.”  So he was obviously keen to get rid of me as a tenant. And Miss Mary Mossman had offered me a place in Duart Road, so I told Peter Gifford, “Look, you know, you’d better find another tenant.”  Custance was very unhappy when Peter Gifford let me go. Peter Gifford judged me a bad debt, which I was very happy about, ‘cause the rent was half the price with Mary Mossman. [Chuckle] She was an absolute dear.

So that’s when I got started. My first shop assistant was a Treacher … Co Treacher’s daughter … can’t think what her name was. And I had to repair the roof of the old shop ’cause it was full of holes.  Prior to me opening the shop I knew that I was running low on money and I needed some help;  and I’d been with the ANZ Bank for all my working life. I went to work for Noel Wilson as relieving pharmacist in Hastings, and I worked for Sandy Rogers who was another pharmacist – two older pharmacists in Hastings. Anyway, I said to Noel one day, “Look, the ANZ Bank refuse to let me have a loan and I’m going to need to some working capital.”  He said, “Go and see my bank, National Bank – Murray Graham, he’s your answer.”  I went round to see Murray Graham, walked in, and Murray Graham said, “You’re starting a pharmacy?” I said, “Yes”, and I said, “I’ve had to buy my land, my building.” He said, “Well, what have you got?” And I told him. He said, “How much do you want?” And I said, “£1,000, overdraft or working capital.”  He said, “Yep, that’s okay, you’ve got that.”  I said, “Well thank you very much – what do I need to do?” He said, “That’s okay;  look, we’ll sign the papers later. Now”, he said, “you’ve got spare space”; there’s a sort of an alleyway in that building. He said, “How about the Bank put a small building in there, and”, he said, “we’ll charge it to you, but we’ll pay the interest and pay the capital back as rent. How would you feel about that?” I said, “Well, that’d be tickety-boo with me.” [Chuckle] 


I walked out of there feeling absolutely made. [Chuckle] And so they were my tenants for five years – used to come out there and open the National Bank.

So then you opened that pharmacy, you were living in Duart Road?

Yep, living in Duart Road. And then … I’m trying to keep my marriage together. And nothing would make Mary happy. I thought well I’d buy her a house. And Pauline Tiers, pharmacist in Karamu Road – Andy Duncan had bought his pharmacy off [from] Pauline Tiers in Mahora;  I think that’s how it goes. Any rate, Pauline Tiers was a good friend and she had a house up the top of Tauroa Road which she wanted to sell. And very reluctantly the insurance company let me have the money to buy Pauline Tiers’ house. We moved in and I added to that using Ernie Wiggins again;  and that didn’t make anybody any happier, and we parted company.

So I was living there looking after the two children – there was Tim and Catherine. And Tim I used to take down … he was only eight or nine months … and I used to take him down and he’d spend his day down at the pharmacy, and grew up virtually in the pharmacy, until Joyce Marychurch, who had a son born on the same day as Tim, came in one day. She said, “Look” … what’s his name? Well, it was Joyce and Peter, but I can’t think of the son’s name. Anyway, she said, “Look, can I pick Tim up when you come down each morning, and then he can come over, because” … Andrew; “Andrew is bored to tears, and he’d just love some company.” So really, Joyce Marychurch acted for about eighteen months I think … Oh, she was just brilliant;  Tim was so lucky. She was really like another mother to him.  She was really lovely. I mean, she helped me out of a hole.

Anyway, I then remarried, Helen. And I got involved with horses – never ridden in my life, but I learnt to ride. And one day I saw [a] piece of land up Te Mata Peak Road. I’m not sure how I came to know about it, but Bryce Jones was up there – I saw him on the site and I stopped. And he said, “Oh yes, we’ve just bought this.”  And I said, “What about the piece in front?” He said, “Oh, I don’t know whether that’s for sale or not, but we’ve got this one; we’re on the top site.”  And I went back to Bill Currie, the land agent, and I said to Bill, “What would the price be?” And about three weeks later I went back to Bill and said, “Have you found anything out?” And a couple of weeks after that, Bill still hadn’t come up with …

He was pretty tired, Bill.

Yeah. He had Peter Morrison working with him. And I was looking out of the pharmacy one day and I saw David Christie walking into the coffee bar, or café, across the road. So I whipped across and said to David Christie, “Look, is that piece of land for sale?” He said, “Yeah, it’s been on the market – no one wants it.”  “How much do you want for it?” He said, “Oh, £12,000.”  He said, “The back piece was £10 [thousand];  front piece was £12 [thousand].” He said, “I think it’s a better piece, but Bryce thinks his piece is best, so …” He said, “Yep – £12 [thousand].”  I said, “Well okay.  If I sell the house I could find a couple of thousand.” And he said, “Well, okay”, he said, “that’d be all right if that’s what you want to put up.”  He said, “you pay me off the rest.”  He said, “I’m not in any hurry for the money. You go and see” … Bramwell, I think it was … “and work out an interest rate, and if you follow it through its yours.” [Chuckle] 

And so then … sold the house and decided, ‘Well, there’s only one thing to do and that’s to build a barn or something on the site, and move in there and then save up some money and build the house.’ In the event I’d built a ski lodge with Len Hoogerbrug, and said to Len, “Look, I want a house.”  So he designed a garage which was to be part of the house, and I partially built that. I’m just trying to think of the blocklayer’s name … Bill … oh, one of the early blocklayers. Anyway, he came up and made the blocks, and I filled them in, laid the steel, and did a lot of the work and the woodwork on the house. And later on when I wanted to lay my own concrete blocks he gave me a certificate to say that I was capable and qualified to lay concrete blocks. Gosh, what was … he’s died of a heart attack.  And he was out in Havelock, Brookvale Road. His son went on to be a plumber. I should remember that. Anyway, he qualified me to lay concrete blocks. And later on I laid concrete blocks – [of] ‘course I had to produce the certificate – I built a swimming pool first up there, because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get the concrete truck to the swimming pool later. And then I built that house entirely myself … had no help. Oh, the Jaycees came and laid the concrete floor for me, and the rest of it I did. And I didn’t do the tiles on the roof.

Getting back to the shop, I realised that I needed a bigger shop, and the dairy needed to be renovated – things were falling apart a bit. So I managed to raise a loan to build the shops, but the problem was that I had to find alternative premises. And Rod Gallen was my solicitor;  it was very hard to find money at the time, and he came back to me and he said, “Look”, he said, “I’ve arranged a very, very special loan for you.”  He said, “You’re very, very lucky, but you’ll have to find alternative premises.”  So I got Hoogerbrug to design me a stable, and I went to the council and said to Bill Ashcroft, “Look, I want to rebuild – could I put that stable on the council car park?” And old Bill Ashcroft took it to the council and the council said yes; well couldn’t see any reason why not. So one weekend I turned up with my prefab stable, which I’d built at home, put it together, put the plumbing on and put the water on, the power on; and a week later I shifted in.

And the car park was ..?

Exactly where the National Bank is. I was in there for six months … council car park; and nobody was using the car park, so here was this land, and I popped it up. Well that then gave me a chance to demolish; the pharmacy building which I demolished, that part of the building was built first; Ray Durney did it, it was one of his first jobs he did. He built that and we finished it, and then we shifted the dairy into there and I built the pharmacy over the driveway … demolished the bank building and built the pharmacy.

So how long were you in your temporary premises?

Oh, about six or seven months. Well then I needed to shift the bank. The bank got sticky at that stage because Murray Graham had gone, and they said, “But we still have a lease.” And it looked as though it was all going to come to custard, and so I got thinking; a bit of lateral thinking, and there used to be a taxi stand across by where Treachers were in the middle which wasn’t used very often. So I said to the bank, “If I found you a portable building would you be happy to operate your enterprise from a portable building?” So they [chuckle] reluctantly agreed, and the council agreed to pop the portable building on the taxi [stand].

Your portable building?

Yeah. [Chuckle]

So it became the Bank’s office?

[Chuckle] And the same guard used to turn up and stand outside.  [Chuckle]

You became a thinker as well.

Oh yeah – and a builder.

And then you moved back into your new premises.

New premises, and then I sold my prefab stables for three times what it cost me to build them, [chuckle] and they came and demolished them, took them away. And then I think something happened on the truck going back – I think something fell off.

Now, it was during this period that you became involved with the Havelock [North] Borough Council, wasn’t it?

Yeah, it was while I was in the early one, the first one. I had joined Jaycees, and Jaycees never did any projects in Havelock. And I said, “Well, why don’t we do a children’s playground in Havelock?” And they said, “Well if you want to do that, you organise a committee and you do the fund raising, and you can do it under our banner.”  So yeah, there was Peter Morrison and myself … a couple of other guys … we raised the money and we did the first upgrade of the children’s playground that’s there. You couldn’t buy children’s play equipment at that stage so we had a lot of it made. And we’d seen the plane that used to be in Pahiatua. My great grandfather gave that land to the people of Pahiatua, as a matter of coincidence; and this plane was on that land he’d gifted.

That was an old Harvard, wasn’t it?

Yeah. So that’s sitting there, so I thought, ‘Well why don’t we put a plane down there for the kids to play on?  There must be a plane around somewhere.’  So I did a bit of research and I found [the] Grumman Avenger sitting in a paddock – there was a number of planes – in Te Kuiti, where they were building topdressing planes.  And I went across there one day and said, “Any chance of buying it?” And they said, “Well it’s just sitting there, and we haven’t got anything to do with it. But you’ll never fly it, and you’ll never do anything; we’ve stripped it pretty much.”  I said, “Well I don’t need to fly it; how much would you want for it?” And they said, “Well look, if it’s for a children’s play area you can take it away.”  So then we surveyed the road, and that’s when I got to know Harry Romanes, and Harry thought it was going to be a great project. So he got one of his old trucks, put a ball on the back of the truck on the tray, we went off and fitted the tail wheel into this fitting, and we towed it backwards.

Did they have the folding wings?

Yeah, had the folding wings.  And we towed it backwards, and when we came back up we then had to come over the Taupō Road – we couldn’t go through the gorge. We surveyed everything, and our biggest problem was a little bridge just before you start to climb up. Anyway, we’d get up to about thirty or forty miles an hour and the flaps would open, [laughter] and the whole entourage would slow down. Funnily enough we didn’t have to have an escort – we did our own escorting – and we stayed off one night somewhere along the way. I arranged for the television to take an interest and raise some money with them, and they reported the whole thing, all the way through, and each night they would play another update on where this project had got to. So we finally got it back on the playground and set it up, and it was there for some years, and then a restoration crowd down in the Hutt bought it. So that was my entry to community involvement. Ron Nelson was the mayor, and Ron agreed that it would be good for Havelock North and supported the idea of the playground.

Somebody said, “Why don’t you stand for council?” It was when old Ron was having a bit of a dysfunctional conversation with Judith Payne, so Ron had been in the firing line. He’d said that he was going to put a rubbish dump in the middle of Awarua Crescent, and Judith Payne said no, he wasn’t; and she was rather hot on Ron’s tail. They had a public meeting and Ron was chairing it, and explaining that the rubbish dump was a good place to put the rubbish. And Mrs Payne was on her feet and Ron, from my memory, said, “Mrs bloody Payne – please bloody well sit down!”  And that was the end of Ron as mayor. [Laughter] Bill Ashcroft took up Judith’s case and Ron lost his seat. And funnily enough Bill Ashcroft only got involved because one of his kids was accused of breaking windows in the toilet block that used to be by the swimming pool. So it was Bill; and so I thought, ‘Well okay, with all this going on I may as well stand.’  And so I topped the poll, and the only public speaking I’d had was through Jaycees.  And when I joined Jaycees when I first shifted to Hastings, I couldn’t even stand up and introduce myself, so all my public speaking was learnt through there. I often wondered why I topped the poll – I mean, people knew pretty much – we’d covered the whole of the place with advertising and what-not, raising money. And I often wondered whether poor old Cyril lent a fair bit of support with his name, Cyril Whittaker, because he was known in the Church and …

No, you were a young … new blood. 

[Chuckle] Just different.

The council engaged George Porter – Town Planner from Wellington – to do the town planning. And Bill Ashcroft really thought it was a waste of time, because Bill’s attitude was that, “We’ve got to have a town plan by law, but there’s no reason why we should ever implement it because we’ve got a roundabout, and it works very well.”  George came up with a town plan – I think it took about three years to formulate – and finally the council adopted it. And [I] remember Bill Ashcroft saying to me, “We’ve got a town plan but we will never, ever be putting that into practice, so you don’t need to worry – as a retailer you don’t need to worry; we’re not closing any streets, we’re not doing those sort of things – we can’t afford it anyway.”  I was his deputy mayor; [I] think it was Harold Christie was deputy mayor the first time, and then the next term I stood. Topped the poll again; consequently finished up as deputy mayor.  So when Bill Ashcroft retired I thought, ‘Oh well, I’ll put my name up’, and again topped the poll.  And poor old Heath thought he was a shoe-in, and he never really forgave me for knocking him out. [Chuckles] He’s a nice guy. So I think as a result he went off to Hong Kong and plays a judge over there.

So the first thing I did … first council meeting, I said, “Right, we can implement the town plan.”  And I don’t know whether some of the councillors quite knew what it involved, but I had a lot lined up including Kepe Heru, and he was right in my pocket. I knew I was doing a good job, so why wouldn’t he be? And so we resolved that we would implement the first stage of the town plan, and old Constantine said, yep, it was all go – he could raise the money. And so the first stage was outside the supermarket;  so in other words we owned the land which was a council yard, so it was just a matter of … we could make some money by selling some of the land, and we’d get started. So I think within three months they had the tractor out there, the excavator, and I drove the tractor for the first sod. I remember doing the big scoop – it was outside the supermarket. So that was the start, and it was sort of accepted.

And we had to do the next stage which involved closing streets outside Gilmours [Pharmacy] and everything. And I went to a council meeting to meet the retailers, and there was about forty-five retailers there; council chambers were packed. None of my councillors would sit up the front with me – they all sat down the back – and the retailers abused the hell out of me. You just … the catcalls, and the yahooing, and the put-downs!  And I thought, ‘This is idiotic’;  I mean in my book, you had [lsomeone sneezes] to have a town plan, and you needed it to have some more parking area, and it was a jolly good town plan. I walked down the street the next morning and Ed Gilmour came up to me, and I said, “Hi, Ed.”  He spat on my feet.  That’s the feeling that was out there. It was shocking!  I couldn’t believe these guys – idiots! We’ve got the chance to do …

I can’t believe that!

Yeah. Here we’ve got the chance to do something really good, and here these …

But I mean, that was the reason that you were elected mayor.

Well, I think so.  So anyway, I wasn’t put off; my thought was, ‘Well you’ll be dead, and you won’t be worrying about it anyway.’  And Bob Frater, he was against it; Ewing wasn’t too bad, but you know, there was a whole group of them, and I thought, ‘This is idiotic.’  Anyway, we proceeded. In the end when I decided I’d had enough – I had to fight Harry Romanes every inch of the way. Harry was adamant that we weren’t going to proceed any further, but I think Kepe Heru kept on popping the vote in the right place.  But it got around to the point where we’d put the ring road … we’d put Porter Drive right around to where my pharmacy is now, but we didn’t connect the piece up in front of the church. And I said to George [Porter] in my last meeting, I said, “Look George, that has to happen, because you need that connection – you need to have that flow.”  “Oh”, he said, “you don’t need to convince me – I drew it.”  He said, “We’re going to do it.”  I said, “How the hell are you going to get past Harry Romanes and [Colin] Shanley?” And he said, “Leave it to me.”  And three months later it came up they were going to put a car park out there; and of course what do you put in a car park? [Chuckle] You put a road.

That’s amazing. A lot of us didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes. You know, we knew that there were some struggles going on within the council, but it never surfaced.

Most of the time it was fairly reasonable, you know, and I sat on a lot of councils.  Margaret Hursthouse I made my deputy mayor when I got elected.  Perhaps it was a mistake, but Margaret would like to’ve been mayor, and she was pretty helpful for a couple of terms, but Margaret had a bit of ill health and I had to tell her one day, perhaps she should take three months off.

Those people that wanted to stand were standing for the glory of being there rather than doing something for the community.

Mmm. I think that’s what it was.

Columba Way I think it’s called now; once you got that through …

Well I didn’t get it through, George Porter did. And I think the people of Havelock North owe George a huge amount of praise and thanks because without him you wouldn’t have the Havelock you’ve got today.  He had the foresight. I mean, when we were trying to establish that car park outside Ed Gilmours – the opposition to closing the road! It was just phenomenal!

While you were involved as the mayor you instigated several reasonably big projects; one of them was the library?

Well the library – I’d suggested it to Bill Ashcroft, and Bill said, “Oh, we’ve had three loan polls – it’s never going to be a goer.”  So the second council meeting I think, I said, “I think we should build a library”, and it was pretty lukewarm.  But Colin Shanley …

Peter Kale.

Yes, to a degree, Peter ran with Harry, and if Harry said no, well Peter said no.  So yeah, Shanley and Margaret Hursthouse were my main supporters.  Anyway, my thing to them was – and it was when Fowler was building the Fowler Centre in Wellington; and I thought, ‘Well, if he can do it so can I.’ “How about we raise some money, and if we raise a substantial amount we’ll build the library.”  So then Harry thought he could do the plans for the library, and there was a lot of dissent there, and I said, “No, come on – let’s get a decent architect.”  And I guess I won a divided council over using Len Hoogerbrug; but I mean Len’s ideas were as good as the next architect.  And Len came up with the plans for the library, and then a community centre, and then an auditorium. And I said to Len, “Well, I think we could do the community centre and the auditorium.”  And basically that community centre is very much like Len did it in the first place.  And Shanley did a model of the library, [chuckle] and he brought it along to a meeting.  It’s beautiful, he’d done a fantastic job – looked amazing with the community centre.  And he popped it on his trailer to go home – or van or whatever – and it blew off the back; it was demolished, which was such a shame. We had all sorts of fund raisers.

Colin [Shanley] was a Rotarian then and he came along and floated the idea – would the Rotary Club like to become involved as a major fund raiser for Jeff Whittaker’s new library? Colin and I both said, “Okay, well we’ll go along” …

And you did.

“… and join the thing”.  And the most wonderful friendship was amongst …

Well I got to know you, and … yeah. And when you think about it, it involved the whole community.

Oh! We had most of the Goldies from Wellington – paintings …

Yeah. Oh, I think we had the art …

We had all the beautiful pottery from [noise on recording] all over New Zealand, and we did the Thoroughbred ’79 or something …

With all the cups, yeah.

We had every cup and every ribbon for Hawke’s Bay.  But you know, we raised so much. But the interesting thing was the number of people that [who] wrote to the paper and said, ‘We don’t want the council to borrow any more money.’  Solicitors – some of our well-known …

We’re going to judge you …

… and they were the first people to use it.

Well what happened was we raised the money – we raised $60,000 – no sorry, $90 [thousand] – and I thought that was a good amount of money to float it. And we still had all these negative people, so I figured we’d lost the loan poll … I think it was three times they’d had a go at it … and we weren’t going to lose again. So I timed the resolution for the last council meeting in December, and I said it was very important that we advertise this thing on the 20th December so it would just follow, and it would give nobody a chance to have a loan poll petition.  I went in to see Bob Dick on about 20th January;  Bob was back from his holiday and I said to Bob, “You have a good holiday?” “Yes.”  I said, “Have we any objections to the loan?”  “Oh, damn it!” says Bob, “forgot to do it.” So we advertised it, and Richard [Watson] got back from America, and Richard said, “Oh to hell with this, I’m not having this on my bloody rates!”

Went to the paper about it.

Yeah. Yeah. “I’m going to have a petition.”  He organised a petition, or they had a petition; only had ten percent of the ratepayers and he got it all right, so we had to have a poll.  Well I knew we’d friggin’ lose, so I went to Len Hoogerbrug and said, “Look Len, you got paid for your plans;  how about doing me another plan?  I know, I think …” well we’d raised $120 [thousand] “we can raise $180,000, and that’s going to stop us; you get paid if the library goes ahead.  If the library doesn’t go ahead, you lose.” And he said, “Oh – betting on you”, he said, “I’ll do that for you.”  And I said, “It can’t cost more than $180 [thousand]”, and he said, “all right – I’ll do the plans for you.”

So it was the night of the loan poll and we were all round at Margaret Hursthouse’s, and Bob Dick came in; long face, he  says, “Oh, you lost by twenty-two votes.”  I said, “You … we lost because of you.”  And he said, “Oh well, that’s the end of the library.”  And Margaret Hursthouse is in tears and – Marion Moss I think was on the committee then – she was in tears, and Vivienne Williams. Any rate, the women were all in tears and the boys were having another beer.  And Harry said, “Oh well, that’s it – the public don’t [doesn’t] want it.”  And I said, “Yeah, well I don’t agree with you, Harry”, and I went to the piano and I pulled out the new centre plans. [Laughter]

Of the library?

Of the library. And Harry [laughter] … Harry nearly choked. Oh dear. Anyway, I said, “Well, let’s build this library. We won’t build the community centre, just the library”. And Harry said, “Oh no, the ratepayers have voted;  the ratepayers have said what they want to say.”  And Margaret Hursthouse said, “Oh no – d’you think you could do it?” I said, “Well, there’s the plans.”  So it took me six weeks of council meetings;  I put it every argument I could find.

We were just so grateful that you were working for the community – you weren’t working for yourself …

But it had to happen. So anyway, Alan Bee was my deputy town clerk, and I called a special council meeting and I got stuck in.  I said, “Look, we’ve got to do it, and I’ll guarantee if the council are prepared to guarantee the loan, $60,000 – I’m sure we could do it over three years of rates – I’ll undertake to raise the rest of the money.”  And Harry was adamant it wasn’t going to happen, and Colin was in his pocket, and Peter Kale – all three of them. And when I counted it up it looked as though I was going to lose; two and a half hours I think it was. And I sat down and I said – and it was a prayer – “Look Lord, I’ve done my bit;  I’ve done everything I can do.”  And I was sitting there, and Alan Bee said afterwards, “It was just electric – you were sitting there not saying anything.”  And he said he looked up, and Harry Romanes stood up and said, “Oh, I think we could do this.”  He said, “I think that there’ll be some money coming out of the community. You know”, he said, “I would move a motion that we proceed.” [Chuckle] Bloody Harry, saying … what the hell are you doing? And Peter Kale voted for it, and within thirty seconds …

The whole thing had swung.

It was done. Unbelievable. And then I went home and I said to [told] Helen what had happened. She said, “Well, so long as you don’t interfere, I’m prepared to run” – think it was a swimathon.  When did we do the Medieval Fair?  That was before though, wasn’t it?

Yes, it was.

I mean that was a fantastic event … dinner, where they had the dogs and threw the bones over the … Margie McKenzie came to see me the next day and she said, “Oh, that was a wonderful time – we really loved it.”  She said, “I can’t understand why I got blisters in my mouth.”  And I said, “I can remember.” I said, “you were eating lit candles.” [Chuckles]

It was the most wonderful thing for the village.

For the village, yeah. But no, what Helen did, she said, “I’ll run a garden party up at the place up the Peak.  I’ll invite all those people you’ve said you’ve contacted” – all the dames of Havelock.  She said, “You leave it to me.”  And I did.  It was a beautiful day; she laid it all out, there was [were] flowers … the lot.  And old Alan Bee and Lomas, on the council, and two or three of them came up all dressed in dinner suits and served on tables.  I came home at four o’clock and all the old girls were still sitting out there saying, “This just takes us back so many years.”  And the next day the phone went and they said – it was Webb I think – said, “Oh, the Nelson Trust want to give you $20,000.”  And within the week the money was there. Just incredible!  Just blew me away.  I wondered why I didn’t say, “We’ll build the community centre.”  You know, it was just … the money just arrived. So it was just great to see it opened.

So after that, how much longer did you serve as mayor?

Well, then … I mean there was Guthrie Park, was another one. Now I fought Romanes over that – I wanted to borrow;  the County Council said, “No, you can’t have it.”  I said that it was no worth to them, and Guthrie wanted to sell it to us; Guthrie had been on our backs for years. And finally I got the council to agree to buy it even though it was still in the County land. And then I was instrumental in building the changing rooms down there. Yeah – bloody Romanes shoves his friggin’ name on it!  He was opposed to the friggin’ thing!  Anyway, [chuckle] I mean, Harry … Harry was Harry.

There was … oh, Anderson Park; I had a lot to do with getting that land down there.

Keirunga Gardens – that was during Ron Wilson’s ..?

No, Keirunga Gardens … Ron had turned down his offer. It was offered, and Bill Ashcroft said, “Well, we’re meeting”, and it was agreed that we would put some money up for it. No – they would gift the land, but we had to buy the buildings, and Bill Ashcroft wasn’t going to buy the buildings. And Margaret Hursthouse and I got onto Bill and said, “We’ve got to buy it.”  And we bought it. And there’s a bit more to that tale, ’cause there’s a bit of land adjacent to it, which we …

Didn’t you have to cover some of the death duties as well?

Yes, there was a deal. Anyway, we bought it – well, you know, that was before Harry got involved though. And then Duart House was another one that Bill was involved with. Yeah.

Did you retire from council?

No, I retired. [Resigned] What happened was, we had a meeting and they decided they were going to bring in three hectare or three acre blocks, and they were going to cover the Peak with it, or wherever they could find.  And I said, “Look, that’s a bit unfair because I’ve created building platforms, so they’re going to charge me rates on the basis of building platforms.”  And I went along to a hearing as an individual – it was at the old Te Mata pub – and Richard Watson turned up, and he was working on behalf of somebody.  He stood up and in a tirade of about ten minutes, said what a shocking mess the council had made of Havelock North;  what a shocking place it was;  all the town planning was crap, and went on and on and on. I walked out of that meeting; I went home and resigned. I said, “That’s it, I’m not standing again if that’s all your effort can bring.”  I just … the destructive …

But isn’t it funny that men like that end up judging other people?

Yeah. Yeah. He stopped the library, and here he was – he stopped me. I thought …  No, he’s still a mate, [chuckle] but I thought, ‘what’s the negativity?’

Yes.  So during that period you had two more sons?

Yep. That was Michael and Paul.

Havelock North was always struggling to get land, and the Hawke’s Bay County Council believed that they had the divine right to restrict expansion. And we did several petitions to them to get them to change their minds, and Mick Groome was always adamant that we weren’t going to get any more land.  So Palmer … Robert – I think he actually owned land in Arataki Road. And I went to the County Council and said, “Look, why can’t we have Arataki Road?  It’s unproductive, and wouldn’t take any productive land out.”  And the County Clerk said, “No – no, you can’t have that.”  I said, “Well what about Durham Drive? I mean that just ties up to the top there; it’s useless land.”  And the Clerk said, “Yes, you can have Durham Drive.”  And I’m sort of looking at him; I’m thinking, ‘I don’t know whether he knows what he’s saying.’  “Yeah”, he said, “no, Durham Drive – we can lose that.” And I said, “Well what about Arataki Road?” He said, “No, you can’t have Arataki Road.”  And I said, “Well you know, the land is useless.”  “Nope. That’s it.”  Well they gave us Durham Drive, and then afterwards I was talking to Mick Groome. He said, “Gee, bloody Whittaker!  We didn’t know that Durham Drive was Durham Drive.  We didn’t intend to give you Durham Drive.”  [Chuckle] ‘Cause they didn’t even know where Durham Drive was.

So we had Durham Drive, and we had the triangle running down – Graeme Lowe’s property was in contention, but we couldn’t do anything with Graeme Lowe’s because you had to pump the sewerage up the hill.  So Palmer was pretty chuffed with the fact we had Durham Drive, ’cause he owned a lot of it. And the next thing, I got to hear through Richard Mason, the MP, [Member of Parliament] that the Government was going to take Durham Drive off Palmer, and they were going to take Graeme Lowe’s lot, and they were going to do integrated housing for Havelock North.  And I thought, ‘That’s the last thing … here we are, we’ve just managed to get Durham Drive, some decent housing land, and you’re going to do that to us.’  So I went down to a meeting with [Roger] Douglas, and I had Alan Bee with me, and I can’t remember … I think it was Heath;  there was [were] three of us.  We went down and we met Richard Mason, and we went into the Minister’s office.  And in the meantime, I’d arranged a contract with Palmer – ownership of a small amount of shares; the council would buy these shares if the development went ahead.  Well we had a contract, so we in actual fact were tenants in common with [in] a large part of the land with Palmer.

So Douglas was sitting at his table;  we walked in – he knew what we were coming about – and he continued to sign papers and work away for about five minutes. Richard Mason was jumping from one foot to the other, coughing and spluttering and trying to get the Minister’s attention and lift his head. Finally he said, “What are you here for?” And I said, “Oh, how do you do? I’m Jeff”, and [we] introduced ourselves.  “Yes”, he said “I know.”  And I said, “Well, we want to talk about the land adjacent to Havelock.”  He said, “Oh – well”, he said, “no, that’s a foregone conclusion. The plans are already under way;  we’re going to be doing integrated community housing on this land.”  I said, “No – well it’s not in the interests of Havelock North.”  He said, “I don’t care about Havelock North”, he said, “this is what we’re going to be doing”; because it was a political thing.  Richard Mason was as embarrassed as anything; and I said to the Minister, “Well, you can’t take land off the Local Authority.” He said, “It’s not the Local Authority – I’m taking it off Palmer.”  I said, “No you’re not.  We’ve got a contract with Palmer; we get paid a certain percentage of the development.”  And I said, “There’s the contract.”  He said, “That’s not possible.”  I said, “Well it is possible – that’s what I’m here to tell you, that you’re not going to be doing that to us.”  “Oh well”, he said, “if I can’t do that I’ll be doing the piece at the other end.”  And I said to him, “Well okay, but I have to tell you there’s a million dollars involved for the pumping station to pump the sewerage back up the road to Havelock before it runs downhill out to sea.”  He said, “Is this right?”  He turns round to his minions behind him and said, “Is that correct?”  And they said, “Well we’re not sure.  We can check pretty quickly.”  So we were left standing in this – we weren’t offered a seat, we were left standing in this Minister’s office.  They came back within oh, five minutes, and said, “Oh, Mr Whittaker’s quite correct;  the land is below Havelock North and it would require a pumping station.”  And Douglas never said anything.  He just put his head down and started to sign stuff.  Mason said after a few minutes, “Mr Minister, well what’s the answer?”  “Oh”, he said, “I haven’t got an answer.”  Didn’t even say goodbye to us.  We walked out of his office. And that’s the only reason that Havelock North has retained its character.  Awwh! That was one of the biggest battles.

And of course Mick Groome was the other one. We needed a rubbish dump, and I don’t know whether you remember, we decided we’d put one up Glenpark Place, right in the hills there.  And I thought, ‘Yeah, this is a goer.’  I mean, we could fill that in; we’d slope the hill off nicely. And I remember going up there to meet the residents, and there would be fifty to a hundred residents all out there, most of them up on a fence post, and told them we were going to put a rubbish dump up their road. [Chuckle]

Well I remember Awarua Crescent – no one complained with that beautiful level area.

Oh, Judith Payne did. I was in the pharmacy one day and I always used to hide the money – I didn’t have a safe – I used to hide my money in the rubbish tin. And one of the guys that called on me got pretty helpful, and he picked up the rubbish behind my back and had thrown it on the rubbish truck. Suddenly I realised all my week’s takings had gone out in the rubbish and I finished up at the rubbish dump up the hill [chuckle] going through rubbish bags.

Did you find it?

Yeah, I found my money. [Chuckle] It was in the last lot that was tipped off.

Yeah, so anyway Glenpark Place wasn’t a goer, and we said to Hawke’s Bay County Council, “Well where can we go?”  And they said, “Well, you can go to Black Bridge because we’ve got a dump there.”  So we said, “Well, how much will it cost us?”  And they said, “Oh”, [a] certain percentage of what it was, “that’s fine.”  Well the first bill came in; Dudley Hawkes was the engineer. It was four times what they’d suggested to us, and I stood up in the council meeting and said that they’d given Dudley Hawkes an open cheque book. “Ridiculous!  He had no controls placed over him and he wasn’t going to spend our money like that.”  [Chuckle]  Well – headlines in the paper the next day weren’t particularly complimentary from the County Council.

So I went to an airport meeting at the County Council chambers; walked in there and there were three County councillors in the meeting, just me, and the reps [representatives] from Hastings. Anyway, we had the meeting; I’m just about to leave and they shut the door on me, so I was locked up with Mick Groome and three of their County councillors, and they told me in no uncertain terms that I was going to apologise to Dudley Hawkes before I left the [chuckle] room. [Chuckle]

You were a rebel with a cause, weren’t you?

[Chuckle] And I said, “There’s no way that I’m going to be leaving this room with an apology for Dudley Hawkes, even if it takes me all day; you’re not getting one, because that’s what he’s got.”  Anyway, in the end I opened the door and left;  never did apologise.  So that’s what they did;  they literally loaded all their costs onto us.

So the next big fight was we needed our sewerage … we had tanks remember? We needed to connect up to the sewerage, which they’re just replacing now.

Yes, at Whakatu.

And, oh old Bert Selles had decided that we were going to pay a certain sum of money based on peak flows, and I said to Bert, “Look, that’s unfair, ’cause you’re not charging yourself on peak flows. All your calculations for Hastings are done on minimal flows; and you’re charging Havelock on …”  And Bert said, “Oh well, that’s the way it’s got to be.”  I mean, Bert and I got on pretty well together.  And I said, “No, we’re not going to wear that.” So I went along to a council meeting with Hastings City and I put up the figures that I’d had worked out – Sands, was it?  Keith;  Keith worked the figures out for me and I took Keith the figures on Hastings Council, and said, “That’s what we put down our sewer.  If it floods – well, we can’t help the flood water going down, but that’s basically our sewer.”  They had to change their whole calculation to cut the cost to Havelock North by half, all because I was prepared to battle with …


Yeah.  And the next one that Hastings thought we [they] had us over a barrel was over amalgamation, because we needed water.  And Harry was hell bent on amalgamation;  he and Mackersey. Oh, it was undermining … I just sort of felt, well hey – if you live in Havelock, at least you could be independent and be for Havelock.  But any rate, Harry and Mackersey had worked out this deal where we could get water provided we amalgamated.

And Keith Sands tried everywhere for us; we put down wells, we investigated wells, we looked at aquifers, and it looked like we were going to be stymied.  And then Russell Robertson came into my pharmacy one day and he said, “Whittaker, do you want some water?”  And I said, “Oh, we’d love some water.”  “Well”, he said “I’ve just done a well and we’ve got more water than you’d ever believe coming up this well down in Brookvale Road.”  He said, “Come down and have a look.”  And we went down and there was just water everywhere. And I said to Russell, “Well, how do we get it?”  “Well”, he said, “it’s yours if you want it.”  He said, “Well I need a few easements and things like that.”  Well I went back to Keith Sands and said to him, “Look, I think I’ve got the water.”  And he said,“No, you haven’t got any water.”  I said, “Will you come down and have a look?”  “No!”  He said, “There’s no water down there.”  And finally I convinced them all to go down and have a look, and they did some tests;  comes from Tukituki [River], I think, and that’s where we got our water.  But it was only [of] course through Russell Robertson and his generosity.  So you know, they were the major big projects.

Yes, but you know, the community was probably only six, seven thousand, those days.

Oh, I think it was … when I retired it was up around ten. [Thousand]

Well it’s at twelve [thousand] now.

Yeah, well it’s mostly more if you take in the county. Well what George Porter used to say was, “When you get to fourteen thousand you’ll have sufficient parking for fourteen thousand.” And if Hastings when they took over, hadn’t sold off that extra block of parking, we would’ve had parking for fourteen thousand.

So then once you’d retired from council, what happened next?

Well actually, there’s a piece we missed. I’d only just opened my pharmacy, and one of the things that used to make Mary happy was skiing. And I thought, ‘Well, let’s go skiing.’  But you couldn’t get into the Hawke’s Bay Ski Club; they were full.  And in the event I put an ad [advertisement] in the paper and [a] hundred and twenty people turned up to St Luke’s, and we formed the Havelock Ski Club. And Len Hoogerbrug was there, and he said, “I’ll design it as my contribution”, and we formed the Club.  I worked out financing for if everybody made a contribution, and then I went to the Lotteries Grants Board and finished up with the biggest grant that was ever given to a sporting body.  Len did the plans, we engaged Jeff Treacher to build it, I did all the contracting;  I did all the organising for everybody to get up the mountain;  the materials to assist, and we opened the thing only owing the contributions to the members.  Yeah, so that was sort of on the way. And after that I’d had my dash in local bodies.

Helen came home one day and said she’d like to establish a garden centre, and I could see no reason why she shouldn’t.  And she’d figured out there was one nursery that was for sale, Wilson’s Nursery.  So I went and had a look and thought, ‘Well, yeah okay.’ I always had a bit of a green hand;  I planted the plants up Te Mata Peak Road – it was worth a go.  And we sold the Peak, [Peak House Restaurant] and bought the garden centre.  We offered Wilson’s a crazy price – well, he was dead; and funnily enough all our plants that are planted up Te Mata Peak, including the redwoods on the roadside, all came from Wilson.  Wilson imported the seed for those redwoods and I planted them in [on] the roadside because I had horses, and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just pop them over the fence; they’ll be all right.’  Well look at them now – they’re iconic trees. Yeah, I planted something like two thousand shrubs and trees on that property, and I remember planting a great number of them, and poor old Bryce Jones telling me that one day they’d block his view, [chuckle] as unfortunately they did.

Garth Thornton bought Bryce’s property, and Garth could always look across your trees and still see the view. ‘Cause I don’t know whether it was by accident that you kept those trimmed?

Yeah, we did … we did, yeah. Bryce was most unhappy when we planted.  He came home one day – he’d been away – and he came home and after a weekend; he said, “Oh, what are those?” I said, “They’re birches.”  [Laugh] And Bryce didn’t think it was funny.

Yeah, so … went into the garden centre.  The nurserymen wouldn’t let me join up to their Association ‘cause I wasn’t a nurseryman.  Two years later they asked me if I would take apprentices on, which I did.  You couldn’t buy any tressis [treatise] on propagating many plants, and I wrote a manual, ‘Propagating 700 Different Varieties & Species’, and we propagated an enormous amount of stuff.  We had three acres of standing propagation.

Anyway, I then built the garden centre – like the building – with help from Peter Carroll.  And then I went next door, ’cause Helen took over the garden centre, and I built the house next door to Peter Carroll.  And things fell to pieces, and [we] had to sell the garden centre, I think after two years of her management which, you know, was predictable, but never mind – another phase.  I’d established another garden centre in Waipukurau so the nursery was virtually supplying two garden centres, and that was a very, very profitable part of it.

Anyway, I finished up in Parliament, and …

Yes, you were the MP for Hastings those days …

Yeah. I spent three years, ’87 to ’90, politicking. I tried to knock Butcher out the first time and missed out; so gave him another go and then certainly knocked him out, much to his surprise. But that was three of the most wasted years of my life, I think.

‘Cause during this period you had re-established your shop in Havelock, hadn’t you?

Oh – no, no. No, the shop was still up in Te Mata Road.  And what really triggered things was I asked Maurice Williamson if I could work on the Health portfolio.  They were revamping Pharmacy at the time, and I said, “Could I work on that”, because I could give them some insights.  And the committee, which was mainly public servants, continued to exclude me in spite of what Maurice Williamson was saying.  Anyway, I went to [Jim] Bolger [Prime Minister at that time] and Bolger said, “Right – that’s rubbish.”  He instructed that I was to be on the committee.  So I went to my first committee meeting at four o’clock, and at six o’clock I was sitting outside the door; they came and said, “Oh, we’re going off for a meal now, but come back at seven o’clock;  some matters we want you to discuss.”  So at seven o’clock they let me back in and they said, “Oh – now would you like to tell us your ideas on revamping Pharmacy?”  I said, “Hey – but I’m supposed to be on this committee.”  [They] said, “Oh, no, we only want your thoughts.”  I went back to Bolger and said, “This is a bloody waste of time – I’m not going to waste my time doing that.”

Oh, and then on the Resource Management Bill, I sat there for two years listening to all that rubbish.  In the end I said to Bolger, “This is crazy – the Resource Management Act is just going to get people into deep water.  I think it’s just a bureaucratic nightmare;  I’m not going to vote for it.”  And he said, “Well you can’t not vote for it.” “Well, I’ll abstain.”  So I abstained from voting for the Resource Management Bill.

And then there was another Bill … oh, the Consumer Guarantees Bill.  I sat on that for two years, and I said in the end that it needed amendment;  it had been in the melting pot for seven years. And the very things I complained about and were [was] opposed to have been changed now.  I said Bolger, “It needs to be changed.”  He said, “Oh no”, he said, “Katherine O’Reagan’s looking after it.”  I said, “No, it needs to be changed.”  Anyway, [the] Gisborne MP who had whiskys with Bolger every Friday night, Wayne Kimber, he went along for one meeting and sought the same thing as I did.  He went to Bolger, stood up at the meeting, and Bolger said, “Oh, what do you think Wayne?” Wayne told them exactly what I said, and Bolger said, “Oh, I think we should refer it back to Committee.”  I thought, ‘I’ve spent two years, and I’m not drinking with Bolger, and I don’t get a look-in.’  I said, “That’s it, I’m finished.”  It just wasn’t worth the … So yeah.

But while I was there I got involved with the wine fraternity, mainly through horticulture and wanting to understand it.  Thorn and I used to sit together; we became the wine Committee and grape growing Committee, and we went down as part of a Tourism Committee to Queenstown to see what Government could do to promote tourism in Queenstown. And we went to Alan Brady at a little winery down there, and we had lunch there.  I said to Alan Brady, “Look, I’d like a bottle of your wine”, and he said, “no, you can’t have it.”  He said, “I can take the cork out and you can stick your finger in it if you like, but I can’t sell you wine on Sunday.”  I said, “This is crazy!”  He said, “No – that’s the law.” I said, “Well can you give me the cork?”  He said, “I’ll give you the cork”, he said, “I’ll pull it, and you put it back.”  And so I got a bottle of wine off [from] Alan Brady.

So I went back and said to the two of them, “Look, let’s have a change of this.”  So the result was I put through a Private Member’s Bill, and it went before a Select Committee and I was told it was too selective.  And we included fruit wines;  and the fact that wineries could sell wine on Sundays, and fruit wine can be sold from supermarkets. And we left Select Committee ‘cause it was so narrow;  came back and [Geoff] Braybrook was on the other side.  He said to me, “You’ve got a lot of wankers in your lot”, and he said, “I’ve got some in mine.”  He said, “If those wowsers get to hear that the Bill’s going up”, he said, “it’s going to be in for a long time, so if you get a draw” – it had to come up as a draw – “make sure it’s … it’s got to be a Wednesday night.”  So anyway, up it came to be referred back from the Committee.  And I told Braybrook;  he said, “Right.”  He said, “All my guys – I’ve just given them all the night off; that’s the wowsers.”  He said, “Now what I suggest you do” – this is Geoff Braybrook – he said, “you get down there and stand up when it’s called;  stand up, and what you say is, ‘I move that the second and third readings be held in conjunction.’ And”,  he said, “sit down”, and he said, “I’ll second it.”  So that’s exactly what happened, and nobody objected.  If anyone objected it would have had to go to a third reading and most of it got lost.  Well, the doors swung open, there’s people dashing in from all sorts of areas, you know … [chuckle] too late. And the result was that Thorn and I had to speak for three hours on this Wine Bill, [chuckle] and we passed it.  So it meant that wineries in the country could sell wine on Sundays – that gave them the jump for six years.

So you resigned?

Yep. I just said, “I’m not standing again.”

When did you transfer from Te Mata Road to your new …

Oh.  So when I was in Parliament I got to hear that they were going to franchise Post Shops.  And I did a bit of inquiry and found out that the reason they were going to wind Havelock North down was that they had a manager there that they couldn’t move, and he insisted on sitting out the back and doing nothing; and their wages bill was out through the roof.  I mean, whoever employed him … [chuckle] relieving. Anyway, I went to … oh, can’t remember his name … and said, I’d be interested in [the] franchise, ‘cause I was leaving Parliament.  He says, “No, no, no”, he says, “that’s too political.  Can’t do that.”  I said, “Oh, okay. Okay.” So I retired; went straight to New Zealand Post and said, “Look, how about Havelock North?”  They said, “Well, we’re thinking about it – Masterton and you and Pahiatua.”  [I] said, “Well, I’ll be interested.”  So I went down to see them and they said, “Well okay, we want to get rid of it – make us an offer.  We want $120,000.”  I said, “No”, I said, “$60 [thousand] might be closer to it.”  They said, “All right, it’s yours.”  And I said, “Well I’d like to take over your old Post Shop”, and they said, “No – we think we’d like to rebuild.”  So I said, “Well, I’ll come up with plans” – Paris Magdalinos came up with the plans – “to shift the pharmacy and the Post Shop, all on the Post Shop site”, and they would own the building.

Well there was a fellow called Alexander there who was the properties manager;  he hit it on the head and drew things out.  And finally one of the guys rang me up from New Zealand Post and said, “Why don’t you go it alone? You find somebody who will build you a building and we’ll go with you.” So that’s when I got a hold of Ray Smith. I had tried to buy Treacher’s block – in fact I’d made them an offer.  They’d accepted subject to a valuation, went to Long, and Long did the valuation. And within two days Smith had made the counter offer, and it was completely under the table.  Nobody knew. Long sold me out, so I dropped out.

So any rate, I go to Ray and I said to him, “I want you to build me a shop”.  And Ray said to me, “I’ve heard you’re the most difficult … to deal with.”  I said, “Yep, I am.”  [Chuckle]  So we agreed to meet and I told him what we wanted;  he came back to me within ten days.  “There’s the plan”, he said, “will you take the space?”  I said, “Yep.”  “This’ll be the rental.”  “Yep.”  He said, “You’re not such a bad bastard after all.” And Ray and I got along like a house on fire.  So that’s why we shifted in 1995.

And then you furthered your wine connoisseuring business to Shepherd’s Bush?

Shepherd’s Croft.  I decided that I didn’t want to stick only in pharmacy; I thought [it’d] be a bit of fun to grow some grapes. So I went out … I’m just trying to think of the guy’s name, but you found the land for me.  What’s his name?


Twigg sold us the land and away we went.  I tried to get some plants that first year, and got a hold of [Alwyn] Corban, who grew them.  And Corban said, “What do you want?”  And I said, “I don’t have a clue.”  Corban said, “This is what I’d grow.”  [I] said, “Send me what you can.”  [That’s] where it all came from.

That block you’re on is one of the best bocks of grape land in the surrounds.

Yep. And it still is.

Had a good mix of shingle and silt.

Yep; growing grapes.  So then I went out there and built another house; and Paris designed that one.  Laid all the concrete blocks one winter;  laid the concrete floor.  End of the wine season the next year, up the house went, again with Peter Carroll.  He’s a lovely guy … lovely guy.

I worked with Shannon Sexton on this house.  Steve Mill had been my electrician all the way through, and Steve said to me, “If you’re looking for a builder, Peter Carroll’s not available, but Shannon Sexton’s your man, and he’s a very, very good builder.  He’ll annoy the shit out of you;  he won’t come ’til ten o’clock in the morning;  he’ll want to work ’til [it] gets dark, but if you can live with that”, he said, “he’s one of the best guys around.”  So Shannon said, “Yes, I’ll come and work.”  And Shannon had done a house for David Romanes, I think, and David or Harry had altered the plans going through, changed the building quite substantially.  And Shannon had gone out on his own just prior to building this house, which sent Shannon broke. And Tumu [ITM, now Tumu Group] bailed Shannon out, so Shannon was paying off Tumu.  He’d done a beautiful job on the house – they all agreed the house was perfect, but he didn’t have the contract signed so Harry said he wasn’t going to pay.

So then, you had a yacht … you’ve always had a yacht?

Yeah, I did have a yacht;  MichaeI and I bought – or I bought it, but Michael was with me – a Beneteau in 1992, which we had chartered in the Sounds, and then I had it up in Auckland. Dave Sawers, my accountant, filed an application for a qualifying company for taxation.  I asked him to file it in February and he didn’t file it ‘til July – [I] didn’t know anything about it.  Two years later the Tax Department came along and said, “You can’t claim all the development costs of the vineyard because you haven’t qualified, and you owe us $127,000.”  I went to Dave Sawers; he said, “Oh, no, no”, he said, “that wasn’t my fault, no, no, no.”  And I got a special tax lawyer in … “No, no – we think we can get out of it.”  I went to see the IRD [Inland Revenue Department] and they said, “We’ll have a special meeting.”  And the IRD guy came round and said, “If we can find a legitimate way to let you off the hook, we will.  It has to be legitimate; we are totally sympathetic towards you.  It’s not your fault, but” he said, “you’re tied into this.” I sold my yacht because I didn’t want to be stuck.

Anyway, we went to this meeting at David Sawers’ office and he had his solicitor there – there was the solicitor and IRD. And I said to the IRD guy, “I think I might’ve sat on this Bill – can I have a copy of the Bill?”  So I said to David, “You’ve got the Bill there, can I have your copy?”  And David said, “No, no, no, no, no – I’ll go and get you a copy.”  [Sound becomes muffled] And while he was out I grabbed his copy; the clause was that if you alter your shareholding of those companies within three months, it becomes not binding.  It changed the whole thing; I had given [?] one percent of the shares as I formed the company.  The IRD got up, two of them, they walked around and they shook my hand and they said, “You’re just the luckiest man alive.”  ‘Cause I mean, I pulled it out for them;  they said, “[We] congratulate you.  You should do something about your accountant”, and walked out.  They do those sort[s] of things.

And then I tried to recover my costs from Dave Sawers, and there was no solicitor in Hawke’s Bay that would take him on, so he was protected.  But yeah, he was the ]reason] for me selling my yacht.  Anyway, we had a very good year in the year 2000, and I bought the yacht I’ve got now.

What’s that?

A forty-five foot Laurie Davidson yacht, and I’ve sailed thirty-four thousand nautical miles in it now.

When did you have time to do your … what do they call it?  Your nautical ticket?

Well that just is an accumulation of experience.  I had to sit an exam before I chartered a yacht, and I had to sit an exam in Picton … oh you know, it’s sort of … there’s an emergency at sea and you had to tell them how you get there and what sort of allowance you make for current and all the rest of it. Anyway I passed that, and an engineering exam, and …

So then you’re off on another adventure – you’re sailing around the Islands with your beloved and your sons?


And you’ve disposed of Shepherd’s Croft, and now you’re living in the most glorious home overlooking Eskdale … looks great.

Michael bred the pheasants; we released six [the] first year we were here, and one cock was a [?], which is a green one. He disappeared; I think someone either shot him or captured him to breed from.  But the other one was back here the other day, he’s been here four years.

Now Beverley I know is from South Africa – Beveryley, are you listening?

Beverley:  You know, he knows it better than me.

You have a daughter, you’ve told me that – she’s in her thirties?

Yep – two grandsons.

Jeff:  Beverley came into my life about seven years ago; we met dancing.  Beverley’s from Cape Town – she followed her daughter out here to New Zealand.  She’s what they call Cape Coloured, and Cape Coloureds are recognised to be the first settlers in Cape Town.  They were there before the blacks;  they can trace their ancestry back to Indonesia.  The Dutch had the Bantam Wars;  the Malaysians that [who] opposed the Dutch were [sent off] down to Cape Town, and they established the East India Trading Company.  They met up with people called the Xhosa who were natives to the area … or Hottentots [now called Khoekhoe]. So that was in the 1600s.  Beverley – her great grandfather was English – his name was Ratcliffe.  He came out from England and wanted to marry a Muslim, but Ratcliffe wouldn’t do the honours, so he changed his name to Rycliffe.  Beverley descended from Rycliffe, so yeah, they talk about the blacks being the settlers, but they weren’t the settlers;  it was the coloureds.

Right. And so you have a daughter in Auckland?

Yep, and two grandchildren.

You have one son who’s a photographer still?


You have one son who’s a professional fungus grower?


And your youngest …

Was a farmer – he’s now sold his farm and he’s working for a stock firm in Ōamaru.

And your daughter?

My daughter … well, she is a house person.

Well is there anything that you haven’t done?  In fact I’m going to ask you how old you are soon – for what you’ve crammed into your life you should be about ninety-seven.

[Chuckle] Seventy-five, just turned.

But really, it’s just glorious – you’re still a busy pharmacist?

And still a qualified pharmacist.

And still operating a Post Shop? [Noise on recording]

That’s getting more difficult.

So Jeff, thank you very much for the interview.

I can give you … I mean if you want any family information, I’ve recorded it all there.

Beverley:  I think Jeff forgot to say that he’s got bees as well.

Jeff:  Oh – bee keeper.

You’re a bee keeper?


How many hives?

Oh, I had a hundred and twenty hives at one stage. Yeah, I’m down to two, and the wasps got them this last season.

Well I’ve just been presented with some beautiful honey from another venture of Jeff’s – bee keeping.

Yeah.  When I was in Te Mata Peak I serviced a hundred and twenty hives, and exported honey to Singapore.  So we’re down to two hives and we just have to get two more hives established, ‘cause the wasps got them this year.

There are now I think something like two thousand bee keepers in New Zealand [noises on audio] and they’re posing the greatest threat the bee industry has ever had …


No, bee keepers, because they’re not policing their hives …

No, they’re not.

… to make sure that the mite doesn’t get in.

Yep. They’re not.

Original digital file


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Whittaker's Pharmacy

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Audio recording

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Interviewer:  Frank Cooper


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