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IHC New Zealand pays tribute to Colin Meads

Colin Meads - A man who made a difference
Media release
20 August 2017
IHC New Zealand wishes to pay tribute to Colin Meads.

The thoughts and best wishes of the many people associated with IHC New Zealand are with Verna and their family and friends at the passing of Colin Meads.

"While Colin is best known for rugby, to us he is one of a small number of distinguished IHC New Zealand Life Members recognised for their significant support for people with intellectual disabilities," says IHC Chief Executive Ralph Jones.

"Colin and Verna have always worked as a team in their dedication to IHC's cause and accordingly have made a huge difference to the lives of so many people with intellectual disabilities and their families."

We would like to share some of their involvement with IHC:

Colin Meads never stopped looking for ways to make life better for people with intellectual disabilities.

IHC was privileged to have his support from 1974. He was a man who was generous with his name and his fame, driven by a strong belief that people with intellectual disabilities deserved the best. He believed that as a former All Black, with the opportunities he had been given, meant he had a responsibility to lend a hand where he could.

The legendary ‘Pinetree’ Meads played 133 matches for the All Blacks between 1957 and 1971. He was on IHC's team for 43 years.

Colin threw his weight behind IHC after he stopped playing rugby. In 1974 he was visited by IHC members - by the time they left, Colin had agreed to head up a newly formed King Country sub-branch.

“I said then I would give you two years. Within two years I was on the National Fundraising Committee,” Colin said in his last interview with Community Moves. The two-year deadline came and went.

“We were going through the process of getting people away from the big institutions and out into the community,” he says.

He often spoke about one young man from Kimberley Hospital in Levin, who became his friend. “Dean Walker had been there since he was five.” He was 15 or 16 when he left the institution to live in Te Kuiti and he became part of the community. “It was the greatest move. Deano became part of the Waitete Rugby Club, so one thing led to another.”

Colin put his money where his mouth was. Rugby in those days wasn’t professional and there were rules around fees. So Colin and the IHC branch set up a special account into which he donated the proceeds from his many speaking engagements.

In 1988 this money went towards buying a farm in Te Kuiti for people with intellectual disabilities. The idea was to provide employment and teach farming skills and it became home to Dean and other men with disabilities for many years.

He remained concerned at the lack of employment opportunities for young people with disabilities and recalled the pride when someone got a job. “I can remember the thrill of some of them getting their first pay. That was theirs; they were going to bank it.”

Colin was knighted in 2001, but never used the title ‘Sir’ in his involvement with IHC. That would have set him apart. He was more comfortable kicking a ball around with a young disabled rugby player or standing for long hours at Mystery Creek Fieldays, whipping up support for IHC among his fellow farmers.

Colin was a natural fundraiser and backed a number of ingenious farm-based fundraising schemes. He bought a horse each year at the yearling sales, and he and IHC supporters sold raffle tickets and raised between $110,000 and $120,000 a horse. Colin also supported farmers Norm Cashmore and Mick Murphy who started the IHC Calf Scheme in 1983. They encouraged dairy farmers to raise a calf and donate the proceeds to IHC in exchange for a pair of gumboots.

The IHC Calf & Rural Scheme is still going 33 years later and it raises more than $1 million annually for people with disabilities.

When Colin was made a distinguished companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit from Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright in 2001 he told us “she said this is not just for your rugby, this is for your work with IHC also. I was quite proud of it to be honest”.

“Colin Meads made an extraordinary contribution to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities – one-on-one and on a large scale,” says Ralph Jones.
“Colin and Verna Meads have truly made a difference.”


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