Queen's Birthday honours: Richard Wood

By John Cousins


One of the people responsible for the phenomenally successful "It's Not OK" campaign to combat family violence has been honoured with the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to the State.

Oropi resident Richard Wood retired to Tauranga after a 47-year career in the government service spent improving the lot of families. His last seven years was as the deputy CEO of Families and Community Services for the Ministry of Social Development.

Mr Wood said he got a lot of satisfaction from the "It's Not OK" campaign which changed the way New Zealanders thought about family violence.

Retiring to Tauranga has been a big wrench for the man who was born and bred in Wellington. It meant leaving behind three children and 10 grandchildren for an Oropi lifestyle block.

Warm weather and great memories were the irresistible pull for Mr Wood, who enjoyed 35 years coming to Tauranga for summer holidays.

"I have watched it grow," he said.

Mr Wood's career saw him bridge the gaps within government agencies and between the agencies and community organisations. One of his most successful cross-sector relationship-building programmes was the Strengthening Families campaign.

He ranked the momentum from setting up the Family and Community Services Group in 2004 as one of his biggest achievements. It co-ordinates services to families.

Prior to setting up the group, the Government funded 2000 community organisations but no one was responsible to ensure they were talking to each other.

"It enabled us to do a lot of things that did not happen before. When people work together on the ground, the gaps that the community thought existed suddenly fill up."

Another task late in his career was working with Te Puni Kokiri to get the family health initiative, Whanau Ora, off the ground. "It will take a while to bed in."

The basic concept was to put families in the right space so they took responsibility for themselves without being constantly supported by service providers.

Mr Wood, 64, was instrumental in establishing the Family Services National Advisory Council and still chairs the Taskforce for Action on Family Violence.

He has been involved in a number of Treaty of Waitangi settlements, working with iwi who wanted to have social support systems written into their settlements. He chaired the Ngai Tuhoe Social Services Taskforce.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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