Yule, Lawrence Arden & Valerie Margaret Interview
Today is 12th July 2018. I’m interviewing Valerie Yule and Lawrence Yule about their family in Hawke’s Bay. Valerie, would you like to tell us something about your family please.
Valerie: Yes. Well my grandfather was Charles Yule …
Lawrence: Charles Rosser.
Valerie: … Charles Rosser, and my grandmother was [noise on recording obliterating name] and they had three children. They had my father, which [who] was Claude, Clarice and Ivy.
Grandad bought some land at Pakipaki. My father was farming Dannevirke way, and he sold his farm ‘cause Grandad couldn’t cope, and so we came down to Pakipaki and we both lived on the farm, my grandfather and grandmother, and us.
I went to school at Pakipaki School, and the bus used to come from Bridge Pa to Pakipaki. And it was mostly Maori, but they were lovely families that lived there. And then when I went to secondary school I went to Girls’ and Boys’ High School, [Hastings High School] but that wasn’t the best because Bridge Pa children came to Pakipaki too, but the bus had to go to Bridge Pa and Pakipaki, so we got in late to Boys’ High and we left early, and we never could have any sport – that was one thing.
And anyway, Dad started off milking cows and he did that for quite a few years. And then he gave it up, and he bought … Grandad died and he bought the rest of the farm … and then he did cropping, like making hay and that sort of thing, and cropping. I’ve been on a threshing machine, and that was lovely because it was so dusty. And you have to sew the bags by hand, and then often you’d put the needle in the bag and then you’d have to run down and get it. And that was what he did to begin with and then he gave it away and he did cropping really, more. He was the first one that did irrigation.
Yes, the border dyking, yes. Well he was a pioneer in Hawke’s Bay – I don’t think anyone else at that stage was border dyking.
No, no. And he did one – he put a well down himself, you know? But no, it was a good life, but it was fairly busy.
Just where was the farm at Pakipaki?
It was down Rosser Road.
Yes. I remember seeing the dykes … the border dykes on the paddocks for many years.
Yes. But Rosser Road – there were only three of us … two actually – McLeods and us. And then someone owned some land further – you went over the creek and a little bridge and that was as far as the road went. It was a good life – we worked hard but …
Would you have backed onto Igguldens?
Yes, it was Gardiners then, and the creek was between us and we could cross over the creek if we wanted to.
It’s interesting … we were all suppliers of the Heretaunga Dairy Company …
… all dairy farmers pretty well, on the Plains.
And if you wanted butter you put out stones, and the …
… yes, and they would give you butter.
Yes – there was no fridge on the truck, just a wooden box and the butter sitting in there.
Oh, and when the inspectors came, you know, to milk …
Check the cow shed?
Oh, my goodness! And see what you … you know, how much you produced. And you had to start the cows off and finish them, and I have been there, and if you happened to start it off and bang the bucket – oh dear! Because the cows [chuckle] wouldn’t give away as much … you were not very popular.
Oh, very, very …
So you went to school from…..
We walked to the end of the road.
And that’s where the bus picked you up?
Yes, and there were pine trees then, all along that corner.
So you went to school at our mixed high school for how long?
I went … got School Certificate, that’s as far as I went.
And from there you went to work?
Yes, I worked in the ANZ bank. I biked from home – always had a head wind, every way. Then I was a junior for two years, so I had to go round all the different firms and pick up. And it was nothing for us to … I had a friend, Beth Coleman, her father worked on the railway at Pakipaki … and we would bike into town, you know – on a Saturday. And then Dad bought me a small car, which was wonderful really.
Can you remember what sort of car?
It was a little Morris Minor. Yes, so that was lovely. So no, we did very well.
So you continued working at the bank, obviously progressed from riding round the agencies?
I worked there … well, it was a good few years actually. I’m not sure how long, but I began to feel I was part of the furniture so I left and went over to … I had a friend in Melbourne, and went over and saw her and had a bit of a trip round. And I came back and the bank wanted me back, but Bon Marche advertised for someone. So I went and had an interview, and they went over to the bank. And the bank said “well we want her back. If she won’t come back to us,” you know, “she’s very good.” And they were wonderful to work for. I was in the office, and I worked there ‘til I got married. And they were wonderful people to work for. Actually I go to … up at the library often on that Tuesday, and I actually went and heard them speak.
So obviously at some stage you met this young Donald Yule?
That was from church – St Andrew’s. I was Sunday School teacher there, and he was … you know, an Elder. And then he went to St David’s when that started up. But no, that’s where we met, and it just went on from there.
See, I always thought Donald came from the Eskdale area?
He worked there. He worked there for his cousin, Brian Yule.
Lawrence: The Yules – there were two brothers, so Ralph – that was Dad’s father – their homestead’s in Frederick Street. So there’s the big home at Frederick Street. When they were children it was all surrounded by paddocks – they milked cows and that. And then they also had – they had a lot of property in the Wairarapa. They actually had been through some hard times and lost a lot of that. And then Ralph had property out at Ormond Road, which is where Douglas had his dairy farm there. And then Rob, Ralph’s brother had the property at Eskdale. And I don’t know whether they actually ran them financially together, but they sort of worked in together. And Dad spent a lot of time at Rob’s at Eskdale, and he played rugby in Napier for Pirates … yes.
That’s the association.
Valerie: Yes, yes.
So, obviously at some stage you bought the farm at Otamauri?
Well that was really helped very much by my father … [?]
And Gordon was Donald’s brother?
Yes, the next one.
Lawrence: So it’s fair to say I think that the wives of both Gordon and Donald actually helped them into the land.
Valerie: They did.
Lawrence: Mum’s father helped Otamauri, and Gordon’s farm was a Butt farm which was … that’s really how that happened in those two cases.
Did you say Butt?
Butt, yeah. Joe Butt.
Any relation to Mary Butt?
Valerie: Oh, I don’t know that name, no.
Were the children born when you went to Otamauri?
Valerie: No, I had them when I was at Campbells’.
Lawrence: I was.
Lawrence: So when Mum and Dad first got married Dad was a shepherd at Awanui Station. It was a Campbell property. They got married there. I was born there and then shortly after that they had the opportunity to purchase this piece of land.
Valerie: It was Laurie Lowe’s.
Lawrence: Laurie Lowe’s piece of land, [?]. So I was the only one who wasn’t born …
Valerie: It was really about two years, ‘cause there’s about two years between them.
So then you were living in Otamauri, where you built the homestead?
No, we didn’t build the homestead.
Lawrence: Effectively, the first property that was purchased at Otamauri was about four hundred acres at the time. It had a small modest house on it which is where we all grew up.
Yes – that was on the left.
As you’re going up Otamauri Road on the left – that’s right.
Lawrence: And when … probably when I was about fourteen, somewhere around there … the next-door neighbour’s property came up. Because when Laurie Lowe actually got out of farming he sold the first bit to Mum and Dad, and then he sold the second bit to Bill and Margaret Gilbert. They decided to leave farming, and then Mum and Dad managed to purchase the second bit so we put the farm effectively back together again. So we actually had two houses, so we never built a house.
Valerie: That was … the homestead was there.
Lawrence: The homestead was on the second block.
Valerie: When Laurie Lowe had it.
So that would have been …
Lawrence: I was born in ‘63, so it would have been ‘70 … it would have been the early eighties that happened.
I haven’t met your brother – I …
Andrew. He’s very similar to me, he’s a bit thinner and he’s got black hair, but we do look quite similar.
And is he local?
Valerie: No, he’s down south …
Valerie: Invercargill – he works for …
Lawrence: PGG Wrightson.
Valerie: He did have land but he sold it and went down … mm. It can be quite cold.
Take my hat off to people who live in that area.
He likes it though.
So then Donald obviously became active in farm politics and local body politics?
Not really local body politics.
Valerie: No, no – it was more National. And wasn’t that … was it different to what it is now … wasn’t it?
Yes, well it was the Hawke’s Bay electorate.
Yes, that’s right.
We had twenty branches, and he would have been the Chairman of the Otamauri Branch.
That’s right, he was.
Lawrence: But I know – just in the meantime – so we had … I mean there’s myself, my brother Andrew and my sister Jeanette, all brought up here and we all went to Crownthorpe Primary School. Mum and Dad were huge supporters of that school and that community.
Valerie: Oh, it was a wonderful community, we had golf; we played …
Lawrence: Had a very [?] club which enabled us …
Valerie: We all looked after each other, you never went to town unless you asked your neighbours did they want anything. We car-shared, and we had also … what I mean, we had flower shows, and plays, and we had Institute.
Well you made your own fun, didn’t you?
Oh, it’s changed completely. It was a wonderful district to be living in.
People that lived up there were very proud of that place …
Oh, we are.
… and who used to live there and what they used to do.
Lawrence: It was – like, I look back on it, it was quite … when you think about it now … it was quite amazing, because we had one car and we’d usually go to town on a Friday. And the school would – it would close half an hour earlier on a Friday so all the pupils and their parents and that … so they’d all rock up and go to town, and you’d do the shop for the week. And I remember, Dad … and other parents were sort of similar, did similar things … but Dad used to coach rugby because you know, he played for Hawke’s Bay so he used to coach rugby. And if the car wasn’t available, Mum wasn’t there. The only other vehicle we had on the farm was a 2430 tractor, so he would drive the tractor from the farm down to coach us rugby. And if you think about how slow they were compared to vehicles today – but that’s what we did. There was no other way of getting there, so … tractor would’ve been parked outside and he’d take us [to] rugby, and then off we’d go again.
So you know, when I think about – Barry Gibson, he used to just mow the grounds. He’d come down with a big – you know, a machine – and as silage and that – he’d just mow them and take it away. That’s what it’s like. And they put all the silage under a tree … all the grass … and we’d make huts, as kids. You know, like … probably wouldn’t be allowed to now, with health and safety and all that.
Valerie: No. No, but it was very good. But the trouble was – one thing living out there, both parents lived … well Dad and Mum lived at Pakipaki, and Nana lived in Hastings. So we’d go and see Nana, and then we’d go out to Mum and Dad, and the children slept in the car coming home, you know what I mean? So …
Lawrence: We’d leave school at half past two; we’d go and do grocery shopping and all the stuff we needed to do. Then we’d pop in and see Nana at Frederick Street, and then we’d go out and have fish and chips at Grandma’s. That’s pretty much how they did it every time. By the time we got home it’s like nine o’clock at night and we were completely …
Valerie: We had to take children out of … asleep in the car.
But you know – it was wonderful. Each community had some wonderful stories, you know, ‘bout rural groups. But they’ve dispersed, the people …
Lawrence: And especially out there, the what I call the corporate …
Valerie: The lifestylers.
Lawrence: Yeah, the corporate farming that’s moved in there. If you look at all the grapes – most of them are owned by one or two big companies, you know. That’s sort of what’s happening …
Valerie: It’s completely changed.
Lawrence: And it’s … and their labour is all Filipino employees or something – it’s very different. But I remember, you know, wonderful families like the Connors, the Gibsons, the Treseders – they were really good friends of Mum and Dad’s, and helped bring us up.
And of course it had its golf club …
… it had its hall, had its church – it was a full community. It just happened to be there.
See the church is hardly used now.
Lawrence: The school was the biggest school. So when I went to school there it had seventy-two pupils – it was by far the biggest school. It’s now closed, gone.
Actually I think we have all the records of the school to digitalise and make the history. I just hope somewhere we can find someone to talk to about the school.
Valerie: I was Teachers’ Aide there.
Were you? So you went off to high school – was there a bus?
No, they had to board.
Lawrence: No there wasn’t, so we went to Rathkeale. Andrew and I both went to Rathkeale, and …
Together: Jeanette went to Iona.
Lawrence: It’s in Masterton. And at that time, it was too far for us … there was no bus. Well there was a bus at Pukehamoamoa, but that sort of came later. And Lindisfarne was another boarding school, but it didn’t have a very good name at the time. So at that time when I went, there was [were] a hundred boys from Hastings would go to Rathkeale, every three weeks. Three buses’d turn up here from Masterton and take us. When you think about it …
… and that’s what we did. So we went to a school which was considered good at the time – and it was, you know – I mean I’ve got my theories about it, but that’s what we did. And there’s a lot of well-known families that did the same.
Valerie: We were very lucky. The motel that we stayed in – they would let us have it on a Sunday, wouldn’t they? Until we left to go home.
So – did you play sport?
Lawrence: Yep. I played – well, we both played rugby. Andrew was a way better rugby player than I was and he actually got in the Ross Shield team when he was at Crownthorpe. I was [an] average rugby player, you know – encouraged by Dad but I never quite had the natural ability. And Jeanette …
Valerie: Jeanette played netball.
Lawrence: So we were … Mum and Dad were really good at encouraging us to do, you know … teaching us music.
What about horse sports – did you have ..?
Valerie: And I wasn’t a horse person. I [chuckle] … I did have a horse. Mind you, horses weren’t good on Pakipaki farm – they got lockjaw … you know, it was something there.
Lack of iodine.
Is that what it was?
Well, I had a horse and I really was quite frightened of it. And it’d get too fat, and Dad would put it in …
A starving paddock. [Chuckle]
Yes, and then I would go out and … oh dear! No, it was not my thing at all.
We were talking about going down to take part in the A&P Show, and I said “well those days, how did you take your horse?”
Lawrence: He rode.
He rode it down!
Yeah, yeah. [Chuckle]
And I said “you’re joking!” I said “the horse’d be worn out.” “Well”, he said “they were fit, the horses.” But see we take these things for granted.
Lawrence: And so Dad had a horse that he’d brought from … was it called Jenny? What was the name of the horse? Bought from Awanui …
Valerie: Oh, what was it called?
Lawrence: … but he never used it hardly – never. And it disappeared. We think it must’ve gone over a [?] …
Valerie: I think it must have gone over.
Lawrence: … and we never found it – you know, just … just disappeared.
Valerie: I think that must have been what happened.
Lawrence: Yeah. So we never had a horse. And then Judith Yule, Gordon’s wife, she was really into horses. So their daughter, Kathryn, is a very similar age to Jeanette, so Jeanette sort of started to get quite keen on horses. So we ended up with a horse.
Valerie: But it wasn’t hurt … had trouble with its feet. And Jeanette was very much … you’d hate having her on a lambing beat, because anything that looked as though it was mother… it came home. And she had one there and it died, and Donald threw it … we had a gorge … threw it over a gorge. Well! After that, there was a special paddock that it had to be buried, and they always had to be ewe lambs ‘til they died.
Anyway, with a horse, it wasn’t – we’d had it re-shoed, hadn’t we? All sorts of things, and it wasn’t good. And she was in Wellington I think. Anyway, it did die. And she said “now if it dies”, [chuckle] “it’s to be buried properly, its feet not sticking out”. So anyway, [chuckle] it did die, and luckily there was a front-end loader in the district so they came and buried it.
Lawrence: It was all done properly.
Valerie: Well she came home and she went up, and there was a bit of … wasn’t there?
Lawrence: It was sunk.
Valerie: Was it sunk? Or something. [Chuckle] Oh dear! Didn’t she go to town! “You didn’t cut it in half, did you?” [Chuckle]
Lawrence: No, it was all done properly.
Valerie: It was, but …
Lawrence: So she loved animals, and that … always a difficult thing on farms.
So then from Rathkeale, did you go to Lincoln or ..?
No, I went to Canterbury. I went to Canterbury for three years and Lincoln for one year, so I’ve got a [an] agricultural and engineering degree, and I specialised in irrigation. I did quite well at it – I ended up with Honours in that. So that was mine, and then Andrew and Jeanette both went to Massey. Andrew’s got an agriculture and commerce degree, and … what’s Jeanette got? Bachelor of Business Studies, I think.
You’re the most … probably one of the most qualified people on irrigation and drainage, and you have never, ever promoted yourself. You’ve kept that knowledge and used it in probably a much more wise way?
Lawrence: Well, I … Mum will tell you I always loved making and building things. And we used to have … outside our house there was a culvert that came under the road, and I made a little dam, and put pipes in, and I spent like, hours and hours. So I was always interested – maybe it was my grandfather that sort of … ‘cause he … Claude was very good …
Valerie: Dad was.
Lawrence: … and he liked water. And I do today. So by the time I‘d finished engineering, I found it a bit … it wasn’t really … I did well at it, but I found it a bit boring. And then I got a job with the North Canterbury Catchment Board, which is now called eCan, and I was measuring wells, and monitoring water use. Generally the farmers hated you, because they just wanted you to go away. They had the water in the ground, they’d use it however they liked. But now we know in today’s world, that actually it’s only a limited resource, and the more efficiently it’s managed, the better. But in those days … “it’s mine, I’m using it – go away”.
And then Dad actually – well, I came home, didn’t I? ‘Cause I didn’t really … wasn’t enjoying it, and I was looking for other things. And then Mum and Dad were getting a bit older and we thought we’d help out, and they were very good about letting us come home. And then unfortunately Dad died, and that … you know?
Valerie: Andrew was home too. Andrew was home first, wasn’t he?
Lawrence: Yeah, so we were both there. And then while we were both there we bought another farm. So you know, Mum and Dad had done pretty well because they started off with a small block; we managed to buy the big block and then we had enough equity to buy another farm for Andrew, which we did, and then unfortunately not long after that Dad had a brain aneurysm. So they were … you know, wonderful parents, and very …
Valerie: Oh, thank you.
Lawrence: … hard-working … hard-working.
And then there was another period of your life where you met Anthea?
Yep. That was while we were farming. I met Anthea while I was at university, actually. And then she came up, and by that stage we had the two farms put together so Mum and Dad were living in the homestead, and Anthea and I moved into our original house, which was a smaller place. Did it up a bit inside and started our family.
Valerie: But it was very fortunate for me, because Donald died in the July [June], and Emma was born in the November. So those four children were mine.
Lawrence: I’ll never forget it to this day – there was two things happened in one day. Anthea and I decided we would plant three oak trees out the front of this cottage. Dad just – he came up – he just couldn’t understand what we were doing. He just … “what are you doing that for?” You know, like – he wasn’t a big tree man – he just … And these were oak trees – we put drums … we were all very proud of them as a …
Lawrence: And then we told him that he was going to be a grandfather. Well, even that – he just couldn’t get his head around the fact that [chuckle] there was another child coming, and how that had happened. And like … it took him a little bit to get his head around that. But then he was great. And one of the – I suppose sadnesses of my life is that – well, apart from losing Dad so young, was that he never saw Emma, so he never …
Valerie: No, he didn’t.
Lawrence: But he was … having Emma born was a great lift for Mum, after Dad.
Valerie: And then they were my life actually, out there.
Lawrence: So we had four children, or we have four children – Emma, Thomas, Henry and Charles, all born about two years apart. And they all have done and still do, incredibly well. They started off at Crownthorpe School. That had a few hiccups so we shifted them to Sherenden School, and when I became the Mayor … actually for the last couple of years, I took Charles into Frimley. The others were off at Lindisfarne and Iona.
But we had a great life, you know – it was great having Mum out there. It was incredibly sad, you know, when Dad died. And then we swapped houses so we moved into the homestead … Anthea and I and the children …
Valerie: Oh, back to where …
Lawrence: … and Mum moved back … so yeah, it was …
I remember it was quite traumatic, ‘cause you know, he was a fit man.
Well I always think to this day – while at the time you know, you step up and do the thing that you have to do, and a horrendous loss for Mum, it did put us in a … probably a period of responsibility ahead of our years, when I …
Valerie: Oh, too early.
Lawrence: … when I look back at it, you know.
Valerie: And you wouldn’t want him back – I had a friend that taught Sunday School at St Andrews, and her sister had the same thing and she said I prayed and prayed that she would be saved, and she was. She said “Valerie – all she could do was go ‘ah, ah, ah’”.
You know, so you wouldn’t wish it back. ‘Cause they had someone …
Lawrence: A young woman they’d operated on, and she was …
Valerie: … with eight children, and they operated and that happened. So they wouldn’t do anything for Donald.
So then the children were all at Crownthorpe and one …
Lawrence: No, the children were at Crownthorpe ‘til … and then we went to Sherenden for the last part of their education and then they went off to boarding school. And when Emma, Thomas and Henry were at boarding school, Charles was the only one left so I used to bring him into Frimley.
Yes, I remember meeting them at one of your – oh, it must have been your victory night. They were all big people …
Valerie: [Chuckle] They are.
They’re no longer kids.
Valerie: I’m a squirt actually, you know, I’m well below their shoulders. No, they’re huge.
Lawrence: Yeah, they are huge.
And what do they do?
So, Emma is a lawyer across the road – she’s at Souness Stone. She’s an Associate across the road here. Thomas has been the Chief Executive of Farmers Transport but he stood down from that position, and he’s looking to set up his own business. Henry is a vet in Pukekohe, and Charles is on the farm with Anthea.
So one of the sad things that happened – Anthea and I – our marriage split up. So that would be about ten years ago, would it be, Mum?
Valerie: It would be I should think.
Lawrence: ‘Bout 1997 [2007?]. I’ve since re-married … Kerryn Jones … and we’re very happy. But Anthea’s out on the farm and we restructured the marriage settlement, effectively to allow the farm to be kept. And so Anthea’s out there on the farm. I’ve moved into town, I live in Napier now. I’ve gone on with my political life, and my new life. The children basically have the property. As difficult as these things are, we were actually quite pragmatic about the property issues because ultimately, you either sell the whole thing or you … And they’re ultimately the children’s anyway.
But as it is now everything’s workable, it’s all …
Yeah, it’s workable.
… everyone’s going in their own direction.
And you’re able to salvage something?
Something – that’s right. And Mum’s been … she’s been always rock-solid on all sides. It’s been difficult, but Mum moved from the country – how long ago, Mum?
Valerie: I was just trying to think – it’s over ten years, I should think.
Lawrence: About fifteen years I would think.
Valerie: Yes. I’d never lived in town, but I had this … Mum’s sister, and she died when she was ninety. Now she … there’s only two girl cousins. Mum was one of seven, but there’s only Eileen and myself, who’s now died. But I used to come in, because I play bridge. And I’d come in and stay the night, play my bridge, and then I’d do her shopping or anything else. Eileen would take her to the doctor and that. And it was very good. After she died people said “oh, come and stay”, but it wasn’t the same. And it’s the best thing I did to be quite honest. I’ve never lived in town … you have to join things – I’ve joined quite a few things, you know.
So, now your new life of course, started out with the National Party and Michael Laws?
Lawrence: Yes, Michael Laws, yes.
Yes – have you ever ..?
Well no, I don’t. He contacted me once on Facebook. I mean my National Party years were formed from Dad’s absolute love of the Party, and his complete interest. So he was mad on it. It was like – he would watch every piece of news, and would spend hours on the phone … just about more on the phone when he was involved in that, I think, than probably any of the farming business. When it was really on, he was just absolutely passionate. So that’s where my interest started.
Yes, well you inherited Michael. But – ‘cause Donald when he was still with us, said to me, “now don’t you let that boy of mine get involved in politics …
… too early – he’s too young.”
Lawrence: And so I got involved you know, when Michael first came up. I ended up being the Electorate Chair after you, for a short period of time. That was a very challenging time [chuckle] – one, I was young; two I had a very challenging candidate. Well, everybody did, but I mean …
I remember, ‘cause Donald and I, we invited him to come down at the Auckland …
You met him or saw him, didn’t you?
Yeah. And when he came down he said, “oh my God!” He said “we’ve got a tiger by the tail here.” [Chuckle] Truer words were never spoken.
And so from then you progressed on and became the Mayor …
Yeah – I got asked actually, at the time and Michael and I discussed it – whether I would stand as a Member of Parliament after his first term. But I just couldn’t do it – I was too young; I had a young family. So I said no. And then effectively I got involved in about 1990 in what was called ‘the rural revolt’ at the time, which was where the amalgamation of Hastings, the County and Havelock North formed. And the rural people got completely nailed, ‘cause the urban people said the rural people should pay the debt of the city. The debt of the city was $40 million; the rural people had a debt of $2 million. We were also having to pay theirs, and that was never going to happen. So I joined the rural revolt as part of the campaign team – got quite interested in that. We actually even … it’s bizarre when I think about it, but we went to Napier City and asked to join. The rural area of Hastings asked to join Napier City, because we – I remember going and meeting this – when I think back on it, it was bizarre. Anyway, that action forced some changes, and Jeremy Dwyer and co took on board those changes, brought in a new Chief Executive, and the Rural Community Board was formed. And that’s never been settled. But that was really my interest in local government.
Then I was asked to stand for the Kaweka Ward, because Ralph Beamish was retiring as the Member. And I had a go at that one and then I was made Deputy Mayor three years later. And then Jeremy Dwyer stood down and it was suggested I stand for the Mayoralty, and I did. And I won.
Valerie: Well who was … when Ralph …
Lawrence: Robert Anderson stood against me – was it not?
Valerie: Well, I’m not sure who it was, because I went with Helen Arthur – I used to look after her at Church – and Ralph Beamish was there and said to her … can’t think who it was … ‘vote for him’. “Excuse me? I’m voting for this …” [chuckle] so he really went to town!
Lawrence: Well there was a … the issue there was, Robert Anderson was on the Rural Community Board – he might‘ve even been the Chairman – and there was an ‘heir apparent’ type of thing that was going to happen.
That’s right – yes, that’s right.
So then I became the Mayor, and then interestingly enough, just after that National was looking for a candidate as well, around the time Craig Foss started. And I was asked again to stand for Parliament and I said “no, you know – I’ve just been voted in as the Mayor, I’m starting a career in local government”. And I turned it down again. So I stayed on and became the Mayor of Hastings, and was that for fifteen years.
You also were the Chairman of …
Local Government New Zealand.
… which you know – it’s pretty important.
It was. I mean, that was nine years, so after six years in [as] the Mayor I was asked to do that. I’m the longest serving – they actually changed the constitution to allow me to carry on in Local Government New Zealand. So I had nine years of doing that, and then I also chaired the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, which was a body of Commonwealth countries and a body of Local Government in all those countries, for six years which was – it was a wonderful opportunity. I travelled all around the world, and realised how good New Zealand is and actually how good our government structures and our systems are here. So I’ve had a lot of experience in Local Government.
And then unexpectedly, Craig Foss decided that he wouldn’t stand again, after I’d just been elected as the Mayor again. So I pretty much had to weigh up what more I could do in Local Government, and probably not a lot, I’d pretty much achieved just about every role I could. And this was the third time I’d been asked to stand for Parliament – if I didn’t stand now, it’d be it.
So I fought the usual things … well the people have just voted me in as the Mayor, what would they think about that? There’d be a by-election, there’d be costs associated with that. So I knew of all those difficulties, but in the end Kerryn and I decided that ‘actually, this is a one-off opportunity, you’ll never get another chance, so … have a go’. And I did.
In the middle of that of course, I’ve had the Havelock North water crisis, which was probably one of the biggest things I’ve ever dealt with in my life in a public issue. And I did think that could actually cause me quite some difficulty in the election campaign, but fortunately I got through all that. And I’m not hiding from it, ‘cause it’s been the worst water contamination in the last hundred years in the world, so … pretty big.
You know, we were – our farm and relatives’ farms were … straddled the whole system. We knew probably as much or more about it than a lot of the experts did.
Yeah. Well, even when I look back at how that was done, where those bores were located, it was a pragmatic decision that was made by the Mayor after driving down the road looking at the [?] road, saying “well it’s wet here – here’s a place we could put this – by a power supplier.”
That was convenient.
That was convenient. That was how it was done.
We had thirty-seven years of beautiful, clear, unchlorinated water. We always forget that though, but … oh, the media got hold of that.
It was just … we sort of forget how those decisions were made. That decision was mainly because Hastings and Havelock could not reach agreement on doing the shared thing, so in the end Havelock said, “don’t care. We’re doing our own thing, and that’s where it’s going to be.”
And that’s all they could afford at the time.
Yeah, that’s right.
Yes. So you’ve had a really good look at local body politics from all angles, haven’t you?
Well I do have a lot of knowledge. So going into Parliament – it is interesting. I thought I’d done pretty well becoming a Member of Parliament, ‘cause there’s less Members of Parliament than there are All Blacks – that’s interesting, over time. I didn’t know that but there are, so I thought ‘well, that’s pretty good.’ But when I got there I found that I was by far, or significantly, the oldest in our intake of National MPs.
Valerie: Is that right?
Lawrence: You know, they’ve got MPs that are twenty-seven. And I’m thinking ‘argh …’ So they started off calling me ‘Dad’, [chuckle] but I said I’d prefer to be called ‘Uncle.’ [Chuckle] But, what I’m learning is I do have some experience that a lot of people don’t have, and they’re constantly asking me ‘what do you think about this?’ ‘Have you seen this before?’ ‘Yes.’ So no, I’m really enjoying what I’m doing – it’s different.
Now Kerryn, where is Kerryn from?
So she is a Jones – she’s a Napier Jones. So her family is Jones Transport, which is …
S W Jones?
Yeah, so that’s her heritage. And her mother is a Nicholson, and they were into funeral directing in Napier. And so they own a transport company today, and they’re still driving round as part of Hawke’s Bay’s heritage.
‘Bout one of the few left in Napier.
Yeah – it is one of the few left. Very successful business … still is today. And … so Kerryn – she’s the youngest of four, and yeah, so I met her about … ten years ago? Yeah. She’s [a] staunch Napier girl and very proud of it. Yeah, that’s her background.
Now coming back … are your children old enough to have children?
We’re just about to – Emma … Emma’s just about to …
[Speaking together] So this’ll be your first grandchild?
Great-grandchild. First my grandchild – they can call me Grandad then. That’s what my Parliamentary colleagues’ll call me. [Chuckle] Yes – so after Christmas, yeah, we’re expecting … yeah.
It’s amazing, you know, just how much you’ve crammed into your life, there’s been no spare time, has there?
Well, Mum and Dad both worked hard, we never wanted for anything and they were always loving and caring, and they worked hard, and it has instilled in us a work ethic that I think we’ve all got. And then Anthea is an incredibly hard worker as well, so our children – they’re pretty driven and work pretty hard. Sometimes I worry they overdo it a bit, but … so you’d never … like – they’ve done incredibly well but they’re not afraid of hard work.
Was Anthea a farmer’s daughter?
Oh, so that’s where the …
… the love of farming …
Yeah. So she was a great mum – compassionate, caring with the kids, a hard worker. So that’s been instilled. And I’m like that, and you know, Kerryn’s been quite good for me to say well, “slow down a bit”. I don’t always listen, Frank. [Chuckle]
Well, you consider.
So is there anything else you can think of? In fact it’s quite interesting how much we’ve covered, because you haven’t wasted any words. So I think at this stage, I would like to say thank you for the contribution that you’ve made, Lawrence, to our community, and Valerie for you being his mother.
Well, I mean Mum’s been a wonderful mum … grandmother.
But Donald was like that too.
Yeah, no, he was.
Valerie: Oh yes.
You know, Donald and I used to talk quite a lot about politics and he’d quite often make the bullets and I would fire them. Because you know, he was quite political.
He was good, but I was a very shy person. And I’d go to these meetings and I’d be sitting there and he’d …
Lawrence: And he … Dad was also gentle. He didn’t really like … so he’d make them and get you to fire them sometimes, because that just wasn’t in his nature. He didn’t … you know he was firm – he had a view about things, but he didn’t like all-out scraps. And I don’t either actually, it’s interesting, my parents … I don’t particularly like confrontation, and I’m not particularly good at it – I’d rather … I mean I can be firm on things, on what I won’t be moved on, but … And I think you know, some people quite like confrontation but I don’t particularly.
Quite often it doesn’t achieve much.
No, and I’ve learnt that over my years in politics, that the more consensus you can bring then try and bring people with you, the more likely you are to succeed.
I’ve said this to you before, Lawrence … you answer the questions before they’re asked.
That’s right. That’s exactly the best advice.
So once again, thank you for the opportunity to …
Valerie: I’m sorry I’ve put pressure on you but…..
No, no, you …
Lawrence: I think it’s about time anyway.
Valerie: Oh, that’s all right.
No, you haven’t.
Lawrence: Well I think we should thank you, Frank – I mean, also, because you spend hours doing this, and it’s just a nice thing to do. And it’s wonderful because without you coming round here, this wouldn’t be recorded.
Valerie: No, no.
But it’s important to say, you know – who are these families?
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper
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