Waikawa Beach knight Sir Kim Workman plans to paint the fence around his home and improve his te reo — just once he fixes the New Zealand criminal justice system.

When the 78-year-old isn't trying to remedy society's ills, he might jump in his canoe and head off down the Waikawa River, or grab his organ and join a jazz band that often plays gigs around Horowhenua.

Mr Workman was given a knighthood in recognition of his ongoing work to challenge and change the criminal justice system in New Zealand — the result of a lifetime involved in different sectors of that system.

"Young people need role models in their life. It's all very well having a kaumatua who's a knight, but there is an obligation there to be a good example to young people."

He was one of eight new knights and dames on this year's New Year Honours list.
From a study room at his unpretentious beach home yesterday, he was still replying to well-wishers via email following what had been a busy couple of weeks since his knighthood became public knowledge.

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That had included a throng of media interviews from magazine, television, radio and newspaper agencies in the past fortnight.

He was more than happy to oblige, as it shone more light on his continuing press for change in the way New Zealanders think about criminal punishment and reform.

He was in a unique position to form a view of the New Zealand criminal justice after spending time as a policeman, prison boss, ombudsman and also his involvement with prisoner reform.

"Because of that I was able to look at the criminal justice system from different angles," he said.

As a Maori who was now a knight, he said there was increasing occasions where he was required to speak te reo, and he was not happy with his own grasp of the language and wanted to improve.

So now Sir Kim, who was of Ngati Kahungunu and Rangitane descent, had enrolled in a te reo Maori course at Te Wananga O Raukawa at Otaki .

"I'm not a confident speaker ... I don't want to spend the rest of my life stumbling on te reo," he said.

"I'm not bad, but it's stressful when it is not good enough compared with the more fluent speakers.

"It can become a really stressful experience so I decided I want to learn to speak correctly and confidently and at a reasonable level.

"Young people need role models in their life. It's all very well having a kaumatua who's a knight, but there is an obligation there to be a good example to young people."

After holidaying at Waikawa Beach with his family in the late 1970s, they loved the experience so much he walked the street with a deck of business cards asking if any houses were to go on the market, and if so, to call him.

"They didn't go on the market very often and were in most cases handed down from one generation to the next," he said.

One day he got a phone call from a couple wanting to sell "and we've been coming here ever since".

He had recently published a book titled Journey Towards Justice which tells how his work as a police officer in the 1960s prompted his engagement with justice reform. It also brought into view the racism that he has challenged throughout his working life.

Journey Towards Justice has been described as an account of a life that was both ordinary and exceptional.

"There are dark moments and hilarious ones, achievements and failures. Above all, there is love, compassion, vision, and a profound determination to bring justice to all," one review said.

Sir Kim began his working

Sir Kim Workman aims to improve his te reo

life as a policeman in the 1950s and his career also included roles in the Office of the Ombudsman, State Services Commission, Department of Maori Affairs and Ministry of Health.

He was the head of the Prison Service from 1989 to 1993 and a Massey University graduate, completing a postgraduate study at the University of Southern California, and Stanford. He competed a postgraduate diploma in religious studies in 2011.

Sir Kim was made head of Prison Fellowship NZ in 2000, the ground-breaking initiative aimed at programmes for released prisoners of in-prison restorative justice programmes, retiring from the post in 2008.

He was instrumental in launching a new movement Justspeak, a non-partisan network of young people trying to bring about change to the criminal justice system.

He was awarded a QSM in 2007 and served three years as families commissioner in 2008. He was also a semifinalist for New Zealander of the Year in 2013.

From the deck of his bach he could see a gaggle of shags roosting on a piece of driftwood on the bank of the river, which he had been known to canoe for kilometres himself on occasion.

"I've got to finish painting the fence too," he said.

He had four children from his first marriage, and two adopted children with his second wife Carolyn, whom he married in 1981. He has nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.