Special birthday for veteran social justice activist

By Doug Laing

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Pat Magill and friends walking the talk on an 8km trek from Pukemokimoki Marae to Waiohiki, part of a weekend celebrating Mr Magill's 90th birthday. PHOTO/WARREN BUCKLAND
Pat Magill and friends walking the talk on an 8km trek from Pukemokimoki Marae to Waiohiki, part of a weekend celebrating Mr Magill's 90th birthday. PHOTO/WARREN BUCKLAND

Everybody was trying to say and sing Happy Birthday to veteran Napier social justice activist and former businessman Pat Magill during the weekend.

But despite the emotional moment of 800 people turning to sing in his honour in the Napier Sound Shell on Saturday, or such leaders as Napier Mayor Bill Dalton and groundbreaking now retired MP and Maori Party mentor Tariana Turia, the 90-year-old was hardly about to put his toes up.

Napier is still not too big to learn about itself, he was still reminding everyone as the two days of commemoration stared to wind down at the Waiohiki Creative Arts Village last night.

Mr Dalton said later that a mark of Mr Magill's commitment and loyalty to his cause came three years ago during the mayoral election campaign.

"While the Dalton and Magill families have been good friends for a good many years, Pat still chose to put my strongest opponent's sign on his lawn," Mr Dalton said.

"It was sign that Pat would do anything," he said, and reflected changes for the better in society thinking in terms of partnership and goodwill. "Pat was ahead of his time. Pat is a one-off treasure for Napier."

"As annoying as he is," he said in the spirit of the occasion, "the city is indebted to him."
Dame Tariana, in the political moment despite having retired from it, said: "Unlike Don Brash, Pat seeks to bring us all together.

Earlier, about 30 people joined Mr Magill on an 8km walk from Pukemokimoki Marae to Waiohiki, where the celebrations peaked in a unique atmosphere, including musician Brannigan Kaa's choice of something for each occasion and personality as he performed after each speaker.

Denis O'Reilly, who co-ordinated the weekend's events, including summarised: "Here we were trying say happy birthday to this man. He's 90 years old, and he's still on the mission."

Mr Magill, who heads to Wellington on Wednesday with Mr Kaun to see the staff at Unicef and then the criminology department at Victoria University, said it "comes back" to the words of former Secretary for Justice Dr John Robson and Hawke's Bay Community College founding director Dr John Harre.

"Napier offers hope," he said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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