- Murray Horton

On Committee For More Than 30 years

John Charles Ring, who died in June 2023, aged 64, joined CAFCA in 1991 and was continuously on the Committee since 1992, making him the longest serving Committee member after myself and Bill Rosenberg. John was involved in all of the various campaigns and activities that CAFCA has been involved with in the past 30 years, including all the networks and coalitions from the 1990s' Society for Publicly Owned Telecommunications (SPOT, our Telecom campaign) and Campaign for People's Sovereignty, through to the birth of the ongoing Keep Our Assets Canterbury (KOA) a decade ago.

John did the unglamorous stuff - he was a signatory for the CAFCA and Watchdog bank accounts and term deposits, he always took part in Watchdog mailouts, he manned CAFCA tables selling Watchdogs at public meetings; for many years he took the minutes at CAFCA Annual General Meetings and monthly Committee meetings. And he did that stuff literally right to the end. On a May 2023 Saturday the Committee held its annual strategy meeting. John attended, although in terrible shape. He took the minutes, as always. The next day he was taken to hospital in an ambulance and he never went home again. He still managed to write up and send us the minutes, from hospital.

It was plain to John's CAFCA colleagues that something was seriously wrong with him in 2022. He put off seeing a doctor but when he did, the diagnosis was prostate cancer which had spread into his bones and elsewhere. They tried a bit of chemotherapy but it didn't work and the cancer continued to spread. They declared it untreatable and transferred him to a rest home hospital for end-of-life care and he died there within a few weeks.

He was within a few months of turning 65, and was looking forward to getting the pension (he'd applied for it but, sadly, didn't make it). John was the second Committee member to die of cancer within a few months, the first being Jeremy Agar, who died in December 2022 (my obituary of Jeremy is in Watchdog 162, April 2023).

Social Credit

In the past he was also involved with the former Canterbury Council for Civil Liberties, and a former beneficiaries' advocacy group. John's lifelong political affiliation was with Social Credit, a party he joined as a teenager. He was a grassroots activist for decades, a delegate at regional and national conferences, and ran as a Parliamentary candidate on several occasions, through all the twists and turns of name changes (they were the Democrats for a while) and being in the Alliance when it was in coalition in Government with Labour from 1999-2002.

Several of his Social Credit colleagues attended his funeral (along with the CAFCA Committee) and their speaker told of how the Democrats' Ministers in that Labour/Alliance coalition Government used to call upon John's skills as a researcher. He was obviously valued within Social Credit circles. One of my strongest memories of those surreal, chaotic days just before the country went into lockdown in 2020 was receiving a call from a stranger, one of John's Social Credit colleagues (whom I've never met), who was concerned about John's wellbeing as he'd missed one of their meetings and was now about to be locked down for an indefinite period (it turned out to be a false alarm. John was fine).

John was an enigma to his CAFCA Committee colleagues. He was a lifelong loner and lifelong bachelor. Suffice to say that I learned more about his life from listening to his siblings speak about him at his funeral than I ever did in 30 years of being on the Committee with him (his funeral was the first time I'd met any of his family). He didn't do small talk, he lacked any social skills, he was uncommunicative about himself. All of which can be explained by the fact that he was somewhere on the autism spectrum.

If he was interested in something, he would start speaking about it at length, regardless of what was being discussed. That is an autistic characteristic. I smiled in recognition when his sister, in her eulogy, told the story about John writing her a 30-plus page letter all about the Great Wall of China - a propos of nothing. To the best of my knowledge, John never left the country, let alone set foot on the Great Wall (I have, and it's very impressive in a wall-like sort of way, but I wouldn't write a 30 plus page letter about it).

Unemployment; Low Paid Jobs; Precarious Living Situation

John was the oldest of several siblings and was a very bright boy at high school in Nelson. He came down to Christchurch to go to university and, after a false start, swapped courses and got a degree in political science. But he never worked in a paid job commensurate with his intelligence and qualifications. When I first met him, 30 plus years ago, he was on the dole.

And he stayed on it for well over a decade, until given the hurry up by the unemployment bureaucracy. For the rest of his life, he alternated between further bouts of unemployment and various low paid jobs (his death certificate lists his occupation as laundry worker). His most recent job was as a graveyard shift cleaner at a Christchurch shopping mall. At the time of his death, he was unemployed again but not on the dole, because he was able to live off a family inheritance.

John's social isolation was compounded by the fact that he had problems with both alcohol and personal hygiene. At one time, he bore a striking resemblance to the famous photo (look it up) of the bedraggled Saddam Hussein, when the Iraqi dictator was captured from his underground hiding place. So much so that Jeremy Agar took to greeting John with "hello, Saddam".

John's living situation was precarious throughout the three decades that I knew him and he moved address constantly. He hovered near homelessness. On at least two occasions he lived at the Salvation Army's Addington residential institution for homeless men. He had one stint there for several months. Bill Rosenberg was the driver for John and I in those days, and John used to have to keep an eye on the time at CAFCA meetings to make sure that Bill got him back "home" before the Sallies' curfew locked him out overnight. One good thing about him being there - no admission if not sober. It dried him out for a while.

Another place that he lived at was the former Addington motor camp. That was the venue for the only Committee meeting that John ever hosted. When he lived with others he tended to gravitate to fellow boozers, some of whom could best be described as derros (i.e., derelicts. I learned this, and other wonderfully expressive Aussie slang terms, when I lived among the central city streets and back alleys of Sydney in the 70s).

And such a lifestyle could be worse than precarious, it could be hair-raisingly life threatening. One day in the 90s John turned up, unannounced, at our place. All he wanted was that day's paper with the To Let ads. When I asked what was the urgent need, he told me that the previous night his home had been raided by armed cops and everybody told to get out and lie on the road. Why? The landlord had got sick of the drunks in residence and was in the process of getting them evicted.

His son had decided to take things into his own hands and, with mates, went there to attack the tenants and chuck them out. A fight broke out and one of the attackers was killed. Cue, armed cops, house cordoned off as a crime scene and tenants summarily evicted. To add to John's woes, he told me that he couldn't access his stash of cash, which he'd hidden up the chimney in his room. He duly found another place to live (the accused killer was acquitted at trial, on the grounds of self-defence).

John never complained about his solitary lifestyle. He read extensively, he turned his keen interest in alcohol into making his own, with experimentation aplenty. He walked great distances on a daily basis (he never drove a car or rode a bike. He took the bus to his last job, which was a long way from where he was living at the time).

CAFCA A Very Important Part Of John's Life

I would like to pay particular thanks to Committee member James Ayers who went above and beyond in helping and looking after John over the last year of his life. James was with him when he died (Becky and I visited John on that afternoon but he was deeply unconscious. We kept vigil with him for a while and he died a couple of hours after we left). His funeral was quite the CAFCA occasion. He had asked that the service be taken by former Committee member, Brian Turner, who is a Methodist minister. Both James Ayers and I spoke; both James and I were among the pallbearers, including for lowering the coffin into the grave.

John Ring was a mystery in many respects, a colleague rather than a friend. But as a colleague he gave a remarkable, unbroken, stint of service to CAFCA that lasted for more than 30 years. CAFCA was a very important part of John's life, he very rarely missed a meeting. On behalf of us all, I thank John for that. Apart from me, he was the last remaining link to the Committee as it was in the 90s and, hence, he was present for, and in the thick of, a large part of CAFCA's history.


- Murray Horton

Active CAFCA Member For 30 Years

Mike Collins was a CAFCA member from 1993 until his death (in fact, he had just renewed his membership in September 2023, the month that he died). He always included a donation with his sub. He and his wife Meg have been pledgers for many years to the CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account, which provides my pay. Not only that, Mike was a regular big donor to that Account, over a period of nearly 20 years. Mike was an active CAFCA member - he and Meg hosted and organised my Opotiki and Whakatane visits during my 2002 and 2014 national speaking tours, and were involved with my 2011 tour. Mike was also a member of the Anti-Bases Campaign from 1997, and a regular donor to it.

I have fond memories of staying in their beautiful clifftop home, overlooking Ohiwa Harbour (the house was lucky to survive a June 2011 storm and landslide which left it teetering on the edge of the cliff). Not only did I stay there but on one occasion they hosted a meeting for me in their home. This is what I wrote in my 2002 Organiser's Report: "...highlights included ... sharing a spa by starlight with my hosts ... (theirs was also the only one of my meetings to have ever been attended by a possum. The old saying about never acting with animals is true, the bastard upstaged me)".

I last saw them when Jeremy Agar and I stayed with them on my 2014 tour (the one where Jeremy drove me around the country). Jeremy had an adversarial relationship with his newly acquired smart phone but Mike undertook, with gusto, to show him all the apps he could download and what they could do. Whenever I mentioned Mike to Jeremy in subsequent years, he said: "Ah yes, the apps man".

And I benefited from Mike's "proclivity to 'mickify'" (see below). On that 2014 visit, he gave me a gift that sat in our Christchurch bathroom until very recently (when it finally wore out and broke). It was very useful and used a lot. What was it? A simple short length of wood, split nearly full length down the middle. It looked like an old wooden clothes peg. What was it for? For solving that universal problem of squeezing the last remains of toothpaste out of the tube, and thus demonstrating that it is possible to avoid waste in even the smallest of daily tasks. And what did Mike call it? A "toothy peg". I thought of him every time I used it.

Thank you, Mike, for your decades of active support for, and generosity to, CAFCA, ABC and the Organiser Account. Thank you and Meg for your hospitality to me on more than one occasion. CAFCA was only one of your many causes and enthusiasms, but we appreciated the time you gave to us. It is people like you who make it all worthwhile. My condolences to Meg and your family and friends.

2 October 1942 - 27 September 2023

- Compiled by Linda Conning

From stories told at the celebration of his life.

Mike died suddenly in Christchurch on the way back from a Fiordland cruise. Feeling unwell, he fell in a park, knocking his head on a concrete plinth, and died a few hours later. The last thing he saw was his granddaughter, in a bed of flowering primroses. A celebration of Mike's life held in Opotiki in early October 2023, was full of music including the specially composed "Michael, Mick, Mickey, Mike, Mr Mike", and stories both fun (an over-engineered chook house) and sad and illustrating the wide slice of his very full life.

Michael was a curious, mischievous, talented, and very active young person, along with his twin sister Hilary, who died in 2006. From a young age he made things from wood, carving intricate objects, and as a teenager he built gliders, model trains and later, model aeroplanes of all descriptions. His geologist father, a pacifist, left his mark on his son, and at 15 Michael opted out of cadets at Christchurch Boys High School.

In 1957 the family moved to London for three and a half years during which time Mike acquired a BSA Bantam 2-stroke motorbike which he modified to enhance its performance. The bike was shipped back to Christchurch, where it was heavily used, including driving up braided rivers (times have changed). Michael was a keen Bible class attender but later realised that traditional Christianity had a lot to answer for and took a keen interest in humanism instead. During his time in England, he pursued his interest in how things worked including by dismantling a range of objects, not always reassembling them in a workable state, but did successfully create a variable speed pottery wheel.

Following a First Class Honours degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Canterbury he won a two year scholarship to Cranfield College of Aeronautics, near Cambridge in England. On return to New Zealand, he worked in civil aviation but was directed to convert agricultural planes for military purposes for the Vietnam War, which was being financed by the Colombo Plan educational aid money. He protested, to no avail, and was summoned to the office of Prime Minister Keith Holyoake. He was allowed to continue employment, but with no chance of promotion.

However, an opportunity arose to switch from aeronautical engineering to a research scientist at the Forest Research Institute (FRI) in Rotorua where he wrote many a research paper, including one called "Are Dwangs* Necessary?", and designed a machine to test the strength of timbers. He returned recently to FRI (now Scion) and found to his surprise the machine was still operating, but now fitted with the latest technology. * Commonly known as a noggin

Quite An Activist

At FRI he "stirred the pot" while working for the Native Forest Action Council (NFAC), and was appointed to the Whirinaki Forest Park Advisory Committee following the cessation of native forest logging, a situation of great tension. Mike was quite an activist at this time, becoming involved as an organiser for the Electoral Reform Coalition to promote Mixed Member Proportionality (MMP). Mike and his wife Meg were at the first meeting to form a Green Party in New Zealand, and subsequently he became the first membership secretary, and persuaded others to set up branches of the Electoral Reform Coalition and the Green Party in the Bay of Plenty

Tony Hartnett, a leading MMP campaigner, saw Mike as a mentor - calm, courageous and with intellectual insight that was crucial in moving MMP forward, and getting the referendum over the line. Mike was active in electoral reform, the peace movement, nuclear weapons free NZ, and successfully lobbied Rotorua Council to become nuclear weapon-free. He was also a long-time supporter of the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA).

His conservation involvement in the Eastern Bay of Plenty put his engineering ability to the fore, helping the Nukuhou Saltmarsh Care Group and Waiotahe Valley school children to build board walks, the latter which was around (yes, curved) the wetland adjacent to the school. He also designed the board walk in the Hikutaia Domain.


At Ohiwa he became well known for his proclivity to "mickify" (now an official word in the New Zealand Dictionary), meaning to fix using a variety of available materials, all sorts of objects and saying "hey, don't throw that away, it might be useful some day" - which could be theme for our society into the future. His latest venture was as the watch repairer at the newly opened Opotiki repair café.

In conclusion, Mike was a man of many interests, a man who knew how to age well, says his sister Jill, who didn't act his age, was always curious, always looking for humour. Peace activist Maire Leadbeater described him as a man of peace and courage who stood up for what he believed in, a man of strength and integrity. Tony Hartnett described him as a driving force, and a man before his time. An example to all, and who will be sorely missed, not only by his family and friends, but by his community. Mike is survived by his wife Meg, son Felix, and step children Sachi and Tom.


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