Rod Donald MP
Rod Donald MP
Rod Donald could be a lot of things to a lot of people. He was an infuriating political antagonist but when you least expected it, he was often amazingly generous and kind. Passionate about his beliefs, he could be as stubborn as he could be gentle. He and I would never agree on anything and, as a consequence, we sparred from time to time over a number of issues. We held polar opposite views. A lot of people did. Yet despite that, he was always willing and able to see beyond the squabble; he saw in his friends and foes alike their humanity. And he appealed to that humanity over and over again until it wore you down like water on rock and you couldn't help but admire the same in him. He had heart.
All those who knew him have a different story to tell. They knew a different part of a complex whole. He was articulate, hard-working, a little odd (in a nice way), and he was a genuine optimist. He saw the doughnut when those around him saw the hole. In all probability he could have been a successful businessman climbing the corporate ladder but instead gave into his conscience and that says much about him. The irony is he became a more successful and respected politician than even he probably thought he was. He was an idealist living in a different world. But we need idealists. People like Rod show us the way the world could be, and bring into focus those things that we should debate even if we don't buy into his assumptions. He was a needed foil on those issues he knew more about than probably anyone else in Parliament. And he had his pragmatic side too. He knew that while you might find his conclusions unpalatable he might just persuade you that some of the stopping off points in his discourse were worth reaching anyway. He changed one person at a time and to him it was worth it. It was the way he tried to change the bigger picture. Small things perhaps but it is by the small things that you really get to know the man.
Apart from being a fellow resident from Christchurch, he was also my Parliamentary neighbour in the sense that he sat not too far away. In my minds eye I can still see his possum covered seat down a couple of rows and on my left across the aisle. The light that lit that seat has sadly dimmed before its time. Like others probably did, I took him for granted. But now, on hearing the news of his death I can only think of those who were never lucky enough to know him at all.