Eighteen years in local government politics has been "a fair suck of the sav," says Bob Todd, who is retiring because of ill health as one of its most respected and longest-serving Christchurch personalities.
The Hagley-Ferrymead Community Board chairman for 15 of his 18 years on the board, Mr Todd has stood down as chairman, and although he's staying on the board he will not stand at this year's local body elections.
The 77-year-old is receiving treatment for a blood clotting prob-lem that flared up last month and was told by the cardiologist he should have taken a Lotto ticket.
From his days as a prominent trade unionist, Mr Todd has always commanded the respect of opponents as well as friends.
"He has a huge amount of wisdom, and from his trade union days the ability to see an argument from more than one side," says a colleague. "But he is very clear about supporting people in the interests of social justice and fairness."
No one knows the Linwood-Woolston area and its problems better than Mr Todd, who has lived there all his life and in the same house in Hargood St, Woolston, for the last 52 years since shortly after his marriage to wife Pat. Much of the area was market gardens in those days.
The couple grew up on opposite sides of Linwood Park and went to the same primary and high schools. However, with Bob being two years older, love did not bloom until they met again at a dance at the St John Ambulance dance hall in Peterborough St, the most popular dance spot in town in those days. They have three sons, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Mr Todd grew up in Thomas St, Linwood, where his parents got a state house when he was a six-month old baby.
He went to Linwood Ave School and then Christchurch Technical College for three years before starting at the Tramways Board as an apprentice diesel mechanic at a time when the motor buses were a novelty and the last trams were still running.
He worked for the bus company for about 15 years before becoming an organiser for the NZ Engineering Union, for which he worked from 1964 until 1994, the last 20 or so years as South Island secretary.
With retirement coming up he was approached to stand for the community board at the election three years after they had been created in local government restructuring, and his mana in the city's south-east has seen him top the poll several times. He stood once for city council but polled third behind incumbents Charles Manning and David Cox.
"It's been an absolute privilege for me to have been on the board, to be able to represent the community you live in," he said.
"It gives you an opportunity to meet some tremendous people and I've been particularly fortunate to have been able to call on guidance and assistance from city council support staff."
The most satisfaction came from the ability to represent your community - "there's that many different projects we have been involved with."
However, he won't bow out entirely content. His big regret is the failure to secure an aquatic facility for his part of town after fighting for this for many years.
They had a perfect site at the old city council nursery in Smith St, and it could have been integrated with an indoor tennis centre using the present courts at Linwood Park, and facilities for the Linwood Rugby League Club, he said.
"That's a bit of a disappointment, and I still feel there is the need for one," he said.
The area used to have the Woolston pool, but it closed several years ago. "The council would say there is Aquagym, but it is more for elite swimmers who go there to train, not for people who want to splash around."
Overall, he feels the present system of local government works "pretty well. Board members and councillors are democratically elected, and if they don't live up to their promises or act in the best interests of the community, well, no doubt at the end of three years they get the heave-ho."
And he has no desire to see a Christchurch Super City. "I think Christchurch is about the right size. May be there are some valid arguments for amalgamation with Waimakariri and Selwyn, but I think many in those areas would be happy with the democratic system they have."
Mr Todd has had a close association with many sports. Although many people assume he is a leaguie, he played rugby as a boy and senior rugby at lock in the same Tech Old Boys pack as All Black great Dennis Young.
The league interest came through his son Brent taking up the code, in which he went on to play for the Kiwis and win NRL grand finals with Canberra. Mr Todd used to be a director of the Linwood club, and grandson Alex Todd, 23, son of Mr Todd's eldest son Craig, is a Linwood, Canterbury, and South Island player.
Mr Todd was also a keen tennis player at the Linwood Avenue club (the courts are still there, but the club wound up) and also involved with swimming, water polo, and surf life saving through his sons.
He also tangibly helped sport as chairman of Sport Canterbury for many years when Ian Penrose was CEO, and sport and many other community organisations through 20 years on the Community Trust, five as chairman. In his later years there the trust was disbursing $20m a year to local organisations.
He had many other appointments on organisations in Christchurch, including being a director of the old Canterbury Trustbank.
"We had the agonising decision whether to sell to Westpac or not," he said. "And in the end the decision was made to sell the bank, and the rest is history, I guess.
"I was not in favour of it, but in the end it became patently obvious it was going to be sold. It was not only a decision of Canterbury, but other trust banks throughout the country."
He was also a panel member on the Labour Court for many years as a union rep. The court with a judge, employer rep, and union rep was a good system which worked well, he said.
Mr Todd received the OBE for services to the trade union movement and the community in 1988 and the NZ Commemorative Medal in 1990.
"I was a bit reluctant to accept them for a start, but several people convinced me I ought to," he said. "I had some doubts whether it was appropriate at that time."
In fact they'd been well-earned by his achievements up til then - and doubly so now with all he's done for the community since.