Obituaries by Murray Horton

Pat Brewster

Pat Brewster, of Auckland, died in June 2003, aged 78. He had been a CAFCA member since 1993. Like far too many of our members, he lived and died without us knowing anything about him. Fortunately we asked his widow, Dorothy, if she could summarise his life for us. She did so and we found it fascinating. This is based on her summary.

Pat Brewster was born in rural Southland, in 1925. He had some high schooling, followed by service as a pilot and rear gunner (that most fatal of positions in a Lancaster bomber) with the Royal New Zealand Air Force during World War 11. This illustrates the extreme youth of those who fight wars – he was 17 when joined the Air Force and was sent to Canada for training, before serving in Europe (Dorothy told me that he had nightmares for years afterwards). He returned to civilian life as an office boy, gaining University Entrance from Correspondence School. This enabled him to attend the Canterbury University College of the University of New Zealand (now the University of Canterbury) on a war veteran’s rehabilitation bursary. These rehab provisions opened up the previously off limits world of university to huge numbers of returned servicemen. Pat did an MA in Economics. Dorothy lists his influences as "Childhood poverty, observation of joblessness, and Prof. Rosenberg". The latter is, of course, Wolfgang Rosenberg, who spent decades teaching Economics at Canterbury, and who is well known to Watchdog readers for his many articles over the years (and he never actually became a "Prof". The highest academic rank that Wolfgang attained was Reader).

The Call Of The Third World

Pat went to work for the Department of Statistics in Wellington, but his heart lay overseas. His application to join the Department of Foreign Affairs was unsuccessful. At the age of 30, he became a Fraternal Worker for the National Council of Churches, as the only lecturer in Economics at the newly founded Christian University & Training College at Salatiga, Java. Whilst in Indonesia he dug village wells and worked with a nutrition programme as a representative of Corso (which was then New Zealand’s premier overseas aid agency). Following that he returned back to his rural roots in the South Island, spending four years on a small south Otago sheep farm, experimenting with raising the carrying capacity of marginal land.

But the call of the Third World was too strong to keep him down on the farm. Firstly, he took his young family to India (Dorothy accompanied Pat on all his overseas postings, during their 48 years of marriage). He worked as a volunteer for five years, his job being that of settling Tibetan refugees (following the Chinese invasion), on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC). He worked on agricultural and industrial projects, raising funds from American and European sources. Whilst there he set up Himalaya Marketing, which was the foundation of the present Trade Aid. From India, he went to the Philippines, once again on behalf of the WCC, spending two years based in Manila and working on resettling landless people on the wartorn southern island of Mindanao. But the project folded through a lack of funds (Dorothy commented: "WCC seen as Communist front, a side effect of the Cold War").

So it was on to newborn Bangladesh for two years, this time working with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Firstly he worked as a temp in the aftermath of the 1971 war with Pakistan (separatist guerillas fought a war of independence in East Pakistan; eventually India crossed the border and entered the war. East Pakistan became Bangladesh). He ended up as an agricultural economist in that country, moving onto to another two year posting for FAO, this time in Somalia, also as an agricultural economist (setting up the country’s Five Year Plan. It is tragic to realise that Somalia was actually a functioning nation in those days. Now it has become a byword for "failed State").

His final two overseas postings, for two years each, as a FAO agricultural economist, were in Afghanistan (definitely another "failed State") and Zambia. In the former, he was setting up agricultural cooperatives; in the latter, he was an "expert" (Dorothy’s emphasis) in agricultural development. She concludes: "Political and head office issues led to him taking early retirement – for some of which he ran an Access training programme for Samoans, until 1992, then various volunteer work as his health permitted". He’d had heart trouble since the 1980s and had to have a triple bypass operation. He died of a heart attack.

When I rang Dorothy, she was rather surprised that we would be interested in an obituary of Pat. She told me: "All he wanted to do was eradicate world poverty", which sounds quite reasonable to me. But when she kindly provided the bare bones of what strikes me as quite an extraordinary life, working in what is literally an A to Z of the Third World, countries that have had saturation media coverage in recent decades for all the wrong reasons, I was struck by the fact (once again) that there is no such thing as an "ordinary" life. I never knew Pat Brewster, never met nor spoke to him (and to be perfectly honest, didn’t even know if our member of ten years standing was a male or female Pat until I started researching this obituary) and knowing what I now know, I’m sorry that I didn’t. I’ve always been struck by the sheer fascinating diversity of CAFCA’s membership. This is one further example of that. We offer our deepest sympathies to Dorothy and their four children and thank her for making it possible for us to share this with our readers.


Mick Connelly

- Murray Horton

Mick Connelly, who died in August 2003, aged 87, was a long serving Labour MP in Christchurch (1956-84) and held five portfolios in the 1972-75 Labour government, headed by Norman Kirk and then Bill Rowling. He was on the Right of the Labour Party (at a time when those Left/Right divisions actually meant something in the context of that Party).

Connelly was relevant to CAFCA for two, diametrically opposite, reasons. For the first, negative, reason, I quote from my obituary of Chief Superintendent Gideon Tait, the notorious Christchurch District Police Commander in the 1970s (Watchdog 51, December 1985). "It may well be forgotten that the much vaunted Kirk Labour government was elected on a law and order platform, including the solemn promise to ‘take the bikes off the bikies’. As second cousin to Mick Connelly, Minister of Police, and a fellow ideological dinosaur, Tait was just the man for the job.

1970s: Harewood Demo

"He (Tait) later wrote a book splendidly entitled ‘Never Back Down’, in which he said his two greatest achievements were the mass arrest of bikies in late 1973, under the new unlawful assembly law, and the tactics he adopted in dealing with the 1973 Harewood demo (i.e at the US military base at Christchurch Airport, which is still there today)…

"That demo saw a number of new Police tactics. People were arrested at Weedons (a Royal New Zealand Air Force [RNZAF] base south of Christchurch, part of the US military communications operation) under 100 year old unlawful assembly laws. The whole operation was massive (over 400 police) and heavily militarised. Police were flown into Christchurch on RNZAF planes and practised their tactics at King Edward Barracks (since demolished). RNZAF personnel were used in large numbers to guard Weedons. The Police stampeded the Labour City Council into declaring all the airport environs off limits to everyone except passengers. Public roads were blocked off, RNZAF helicopters were used to transport police and actively harass demonstrators (e.g. by deliberately drowning out speaker, hovering overhead). Those arrested were handcuffed for long periods of time and ‘processed’ on the spot. They were kept all weekend without bail. Tait whipped up media hysteria about a bomb being found, ‘an extremely dangerous weapon’. When finally viewed the next year, it turned out to be a homemade smoke bomb.

"The systematic, coordinated use of Police violence was a feature that marked this demonstration off from those that went before (where Police violence was uncoordinated). Demonstrators were cleared from the road by police marching into them – the front row rhythmically kneed people in the balls, the next one punched them in their faces. All of them chanting ‘Move, move’. Tait’s own words, from his book ‘…100 police, all marching in close formation and chanting in rhythm. They were a formidable sight. Some of the demonstrators turned and fled. Those who did not move – voluntarily – were pushed back or fell over, trampled on if they did not move fast enough…I could see real terror on many of their faces". This Police thuggery set the benchmark for what was to follow, during the 1981 Springbok Tour protests. The 1973 Harewood demo was a seminal event in the creation of CAFCINZ a year or two later. It was part of the legacy of Mick Connelly, as Minister of Police.

1990s: Trust Bank Campaign

For the second, positive, reason why Connelly is relevant to CAFCA, I fast forward a decade to Watchdog 82, August 1996, and quote from my article entitled "The Trust Bank Campaign" (which took place in opposition to Westpac buying up Trust Bank). "Opposition to the sale had widespread mainstream support and all sorts of unlikely allies popped up… Mick Connelly, Associate Minister of Finance in the 1972-75 Labour government and foundation President of the former Canterbury Savings Bank (which became Trust Bank Canterbury) strongly condemned it in the media… On the inspired suggestion of Wolfgang Rosenberg, the informal coalition (campaigning against the sale) invited Mick Connelly to be lead speaker at the public meeting held in the Christchurch Town Hall in April. Common cause makes strange bedfellows – here I was sharing the stage with somebody who, as Minister of Police in that Labour government, approved the massive Police operation to suppress the 1973 national protest at the US military base at Christchurch Airport, a protest that I played a key role in organising, and an event which was a milestone in the evolution of both CAFCA and the Anti-Bases Campaign out of the anti-Vietnam War and anti-bases movement of the early 1970s. In fact, Mick Connelly, who is now in his 80s, spoke very well…"

So there we have it. The Minister of Police who authorised the cops using us for a bit of punching practice in the 1970s was the same former Associate Minister of Finance who was happy to share a platform with us in the 1990s to campaign for the preservation of a New Zealand-owned, locally-owned, bank that he had founded (since then, of course, this Government has created the State-owned Kiwibank and CAFCA is happy to be a customer). It’s a funny old world.

Death In The Family

- Murray Horton

CAFCA expresses our condolences to Geoff Morris for the sudden death of his wife, Jill, in Christchurch, in September 2003. She was 52.

Geoff has been a CAFCA member since the 1980s, a regular attendee at any events that we organise, and one of the hardy souls who come to the Annual General Meetings. Likewise, he has been an active supporter of the Anti-Bases Campaign since the 1980s, regularly turning out on protests in Christchurch and at the US base at the airport. On several occasions he has travelled to Marlborough to take part in ABC protests at the Waihopai spybase. For a decade before I knew him as a fellow political activist, Geoff and I were Railways workmates (although never in the same actual workplace) and we were also involved in the Canterbury branch of the then National Union of Railwaymen. We finished up within three years of each other – he took voluntary severance, I was made redundant.

I knew Jill through Geoff and regularly met her at social occasions (such as parties at our place). She wasn’t involved in his political activities during their 22 years of marriage. She was a lovely woman. Her death is a tragedy for him, her twins from her previous marriage, her grandchildren and the rest of her family and friends.

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Foreign Control Watchdog, P O Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. August 2003.


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