The opportunity to serve – Philip Edwards

While many were celebrating the end of 2020, Paekākāriki farewelled its previous Community Board Chair – the inimitable Philip Edwards. Well-known to Bowling Club regulars and councillors alike, he is remembered for his inclusive style, his penchant for jandals, and most of all his commitment to this community and to his family. We share with you the tribute from Deputy Mayor Janet Holborow and current Community Board Chair Holly Ewens, read at his service at St Peter’s Hall on New Year’s Eve 2020, alongside other tributes.

Philip Edwards

I met Phil when he was elected to the Community Board in 2013, a role he held for six years, five as chair. His candidate statement was characteristically direct and honest, “Having recently retired from 44 years as a teacher, I now have the opportunity to return some service to the community that I have called home for 30 years. I bring with me no agendas and hopefully a listening ear to the needs of the community.  I will make decisions from research and the needs of the community as expressed by them.”

I particularly like the first part of that statement, the ‘opportunity to serve.’ His service to the Board was about commitment to the Paekākāriki community. He chaired meetings with just the right amount of formality.  Everyone had the opportunity to speak and be heard at any point. In Council we have a set of standing orders for meetings which allow only a portion of the meeting to be open discussion, but under Phil’s leadership that was thoroughly dispensed with – somewhat to the surprise of the Chief Executive who turned up one night.  This more inclusive approach still carries on to this day under the current chair Holly Ewens. 

In Kāpiti the chairs of community boards are entitled to sit at the council table at meetings and contribute to the debate. Phil was often the only community board member in the district there at the table, never missing an opportunity to advocate on behalf of the community and ensure the correct pronunciation of Paekākāriki.

He enjoyed a close working relationship with the councillors, other community board members, council staff, stakeholders and regional council. He brought a deep knowledge and understanding of the community, and thoroughly consulted and engaged, as he promised to do, with well-attended community meetings, workshops and consultation.

He understood how to work the council process to achieve outcomes for the community, achieving projects like the Escarpment access track, Tilley Road sports fields and a solid plan for the sea wall along the parade.

During Philip’s time as chair, I was Ward Councillor appointed to the Board, and his support was incredibly strong and helpful, on a professional and personal level.  He’d somehow know when I was going through challenging times, and would always call to check I was okay.  He made my job easier, but he also made my life easier. I can’t imagine a more supportive working relationship.

Philip respected everyone, and everyone sensed that.  He was a leader without being controlling, an achiever without arrogance, a listener, a helper, a friend. He leaves behind a lasting legacy of practical achievements and a positive culture without which this village wouldn’t be what it is. Thank you Philip, we’ll miss you as we celebrate what you’ve achieved.

Janet Holborow

Deputy Mayor, Kāpiti Coast District Council
The Paekākāriki Community Board 2018. R-L: Janet Holborow, Steve Eckett, Paul Hughes, Philip Edwards, Holly Ewens Image: Mark Coote

I write from my tent in the Coromandel with warm memories of Phil, thankful for the tremendous teaching he carried right through his life. I was blessed to learn from him.

My mother (also a teacher), used the adage, ‘once a teacher always a teacher’ and I couldn’t think of a better way to describe how Phil welcomed me onto the Paekākāriki Community Board — me a complete newby, unversed in local politics; him the patient, cheerful and ultimately trusting teacher. I had the joy of working alongside him on the board for three years, two serving as his deputy.

As Janet has already said, he set the style for our meetings here in Paekākāriki that I carry on today — one of informality and inclusivity right down to the dress code of shorts and jandals (I’m yet to carry that one forward Phil – but there’s time!) and most importantly, Phil brought to his role an innate understanding and practice of equality. It didn’t matter who you were, what you were speaking about, how skilled or unskilled you were — Phil treated everyone with the same warmth, inclusion and validation. 

It was only perhaps my second formal board meeting in this very hall, when a grieving and inebriated local arrived at public speaking and proceeded to verbally abuse Phil — and for some time. Despite the evening ending in a visit from multiple police cars, not once did Phil look even mildly shocked. He allowed the man to speak while genuinely listening to his concerns — which mainly criticised Phil’s appearance, with some hefty swear words thrown in. I’ll never forget what Phil said in reply: “Hey mate, I’ve been a school principal. I’ve had all sorts walk in my office, and you’ve said nothing to me that hasn’t already been said before.”

Phil, you were a gentle giant with a big heart. I’ll miss you. Thanks for believing in me and for believing in others. For doing the mahi for a village we all love. I raise a glass of red to you as we venture into a new year. Haere ra, travel well. Don’t lose your jandals on the flight.

Holly Ewens

Chair, Paekākāriki Community Board

Philip was chair of the board for the 2013 – 2016 and 2016-2019 triennia. A strong advocate for both Paekākāriki and the important role community boards play in grass roots democracy, Philip led the Board during a crucial time when the impacts of the Mackays to Pekapeka and Transmission Gully road improvements were being worked through. His dry wit and easy manner ensured his presence in the Council chamber was enjoyed by elected members and staff alike. Our thoughts are with his whanau and his community today.

Wayne Maxwell

Chief Executive, Kāpiti Coast District Council 

Philip’s whānau are still overwhelmed by the manaakitanga that the Paekākāriki community demonstrated during papa’s service. Paekākāriki community went to great lengths to show us how beloved Papa was in the place that he called home. We wish to thank all of those who sent food, who visited us at home, those that attended his service, and all the whānau who worked behind the scenes to ensure Papa’s farewell was fitting for our rangatira. Please accept this pānui as our deepest gratitude to you all. 

Kua hinga te tōtara i te Waonui – a – Tāne. A mighty tree of the great forest of Tāne has fallen.

Malia Te Wiata