Rod Donald – Obituary

Rod Donald – noble New Zealander and very local MP

Published in  the Akaroa Mail Friday December 2nd 2005

Rod Donald Barefoot

The news of Rod Donald’s sudden death shocked many of us, for whether we were Green supporters or not, Rod was such a familiar figure on the Peninsula- attending meetings, supporting causes, out and about in the Green van and even standing outside the supermarket in his early days as an MP.

For he was our MP, we in the Banks Peninsula electorate were the only voters in the country who had his name on our ballot papers and the chance to vote for him directly. Many of us did, despite his exhortations to give our vote to his party rather than him personally if we believed in the things he stood for.

He was proud of the Green vote on the Peninsula- even in the recent election while the votes for all the smaller parties, including the Greens, had dropped, the Green vote on the Peninsula had risen.

The last time Rod’s local supporters had a chance to meet with him was at a campaign debrief held at his house to discuss why Banks Peninsula had done so well. In his typical way he had rushed back from coalition talks in Wellington to welcome us at his modest home, his cellphone strapped to his head with the now legendary piece of cycle inner tube. He looked tired then, and rather down. The qualities of honesty, loyalty and speaking out for those without a voice – the poor and oppressed, the other species that make up our planet – were obviously not going to be rewarded with a place in the government. But admidst this, the support he had on Banks Peninsula, both personal and for his ideals, was a source of encouragement and strength for him.

And so as the nation has mourned his untimely passing and the tide of tributes has washed in, we in his electorate must come to terms with what a great local man we have lost. A noble New Zealander indeed, Rod was a man who combined the best of human qualities in an altogether too rare way. A politician universally lauded as honest, decent and straightforward; a strong leader who could work in a genuinely co-operative manner; an idealist passionate for his causes and yet pragmatic enough to search for solutions; an environmentalist understanding the needs of business; genial, even mischevious, but never flippant; incredibly busy as a party leader and strategic thinker with time not only for his family, but for the humble things in life as well – like hanging out the washing. Without fail he always baked a cake, wholesome and delicious, for every gathering. Perhaps it was this humbleness, his constant willingness to roll his sleeves up and get stuck in that gave him that “boy next door” approachable quality.

On his death we realise the extent of respect this “boy next door” commanded at a national level for his myriad achievements. Had his life been spared, he would no doubt have achieved so much more. In a sad twist of fate this is not to be. Now his mortal remains lie in Little River at the heart of the Peninsula; encircled by its ancient hills, lulled by the sounds of birdsong and sheep.

We can best commemorate Rod Donald by following his example, by getting involved and working together with integrity to care for the things we – the people who have chosen to live on the Peninsula  value most; our beautiful environment and the welfare of the people who live within it.

Rod’s generous spirit will live on in his electorate as we care for this piece of paradise that we are lucky enough to inhabit and for the wider world as well. Among the many local causes that he supported, Rod Donald was a life member of the Akaroa Heritage Park. A tree will be planted for him at the park on the Long Bay Road on Sunday December the 11th at 3.00 pm. All are warmly invited to attend.

A personal memory by Suky Thompson.