Deborah Coddington is a journalist,a former Act New Zealand politicianand a member of the ConstitutionalReview Panel seeking public feedback on how the country should be ruled in future.
The former Waipukurau woman, who now lives in Martinborough, talks to Lawrence Gullery about her career and memories of Hawke's Bay.
1. You grew up in Hawke's Bay, what memories do you have of that time and do you still have family here?
Yes, I was born in Waipukurau 60 years ago and grew up on a farm on Ugly Hill Rd. I went to Flemington Primary School, and after going away to boarding school for a while, which I hated, came back to finish my secondary schooling at Central Hawke's Bay College. I have really good memories of the A&P; Shows, the beautiful landscapes, particularly the Tukituki River-bed, working as a rousie in shearing gangs in the holidays, and the long, drawn-out summer evenings. Yes, I still have family in Hawke's Bay; nephews who are having children and carrying on the Coddington tradition at various schools.
2. What did you enjoy most about your journalism career?
I loved doing the big, hard feature stories for North & South and Metro magazines, where you really had to research the facts, and working for tough editors. A major one I did in Hawke's Bay was the story on the death of James Whakaruru. Not sure if it aided my work in Parliament or hindered it. Might have made me too willing to talk to journalists, as I sympathised with them when they wanted to get a story. I probably should have kept my mouth shut more often. But it certainly helps now, as a stand-in host at Radio Live, on the Willie & JT show, and Sean Plunket's show, because I have accumulated a breadth of knowledge about issues over my career.
3. What prompted you to want to be part of the Constitutional Review Panel?
I was asked by Bill English. It came out of the blue and was a complete shock. I didn't think he'd get it approved by Cabinet as I had been very critical of the Government in my Herald on Sunday column. But I love my work because I have learned so much about our constitutional history, and have come to understand a lot of things I was formerly very ignorant about, for instance, the history of Maori representation in central and local government.
4. What are some of the misconceptions people have about the review and the work of the panel?
One of the main misconceptions is that the panel is secretly writing a constitution (we are not) and that we are entrenching the Treaty of Waitangi in that. That is not our task. Some of the public are obsessed with the Treaty, but that is just one aspect of our constitutional issues. It's sad, because New Zealanders have nothing to fear from the Treaty of Waitangi. It's great going to meetings with young New Zealanders because they are so enthusiastic, and optimistic about this country's future. Another myth is that only experts can make submissions, we welcome comments from anyone and they can look us up on Facebook if they like.
5. Why is it important for people to have their say on this review?
This is a fantastic opportunity for New Zealanders to tell the politicians how they want this country ruled in the future, for their grandchildren, and their mokopuna. Constitutional issues belong to the people, not to the academics, or the politicians. Of the people, for the people, by the people. Anyone can say whatever they like - about whatever concerns them - and we will take note and include that in our report and our recommendations in December. www.ourconstitution.org.nz