Penny Bright fought hard to the end. Given barely a week to live when she went to Auckland City Hospital at the end of August, the activist carried on for another month and a half. Her last days were spent the same way as she conducted herself in the public gaze — fearlessly, stubbornly, assertively and with utter conviction.
From her hospital bed she fired off a demand to Auckland Council in an effort to discover what officials had spent on the city's rate dispute with her. She also lent what energy she could muster to a petition to Parliament in the interests of greater council transparency.
These were the issues which consumed her. The battles might have seemed personal but her goals were broader — she insisted on disclosure, she campaigned relentlessly for accountability, she threw herself into social justice causes.
She paid a price. By one estimate she was arrested more than 40 times, and cheerfully called herself a "heat-seeking missile."
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She could, as journalists who dealt with her will acknowledge, be a pain. Her refusal to pay rates for a decade became a costly dispute, which involved the council spending a lot of time and money fighting Bright.
In the end, when the council ran out of patience and decided to sell her Kingsland house to recover unpaid bills and penalties, she struck a deal which allowed her to stay. It was a settlement which should have been ironed out years earlier.
As her illness progressed, Bright got round the journalists she had encountered during her years of activism, and conducted what she would be comfortable describing as exit interviews.
The 64-year-old was colourful fighter on the Auckland democratic landscape. The inscription she wants — "She gave it a***holes" — is a cheerful and appropriately earthy epigraph for the former sheetmetal welder and dauntless individual.