Dave steps out of public career and into life

Recently retired Dave Currie answers the door barefoot in a pair of pink (once red?) cotton drawstring pants and a New Zealand T-shirt. On his wrists he wears an Indian bead bracelet and a piece of uncarved pounamu.

One could be forgiven for thinking this was the new Dave who just wants to be, unencumbered by a public life – he retired as CEO from College Sport Auckland in October and has recently stepped down as chairman of the Raglan Chamber of Commerce because it’s time to get selfish, “do stuff for me”.

But no, Dave has always worn what could be perceived as hippy trinkets, even throughout his career as chef de mission for 10 years for the New Zealand Summer Olympics and Commonwealth Games teams.

Sitting at his kitchen bench, in a lovely light space he has created in his Government Rd home, he fingers the beads and the raw piece of greenstone.

The Indian beads of stone were a gift, probably during his time in Delhi for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. They stand for courage and support.

The pounamu his friends gave him before an operation for bowel cancer in 2003, “I have worn it ever since”.

“And I wear a pendant as well,” he pulls out another piece of greenstone from under his T-shirt; also a gift from his time as chef de mission. “That’s a nice reflection for me from back to the time.”

Apart from this quiet reflection, and a forced admission that the highlight of his career was when he was trying to become an Olympics marathon runner – “I look back on those years with fondness. I love training; I love running. That formed the foundation of the rest of my career, really” – there is no looking back on life’s work for Dave, who was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2009.

“I don’t live in the past. I have had some amazing experiences, there are amazing things I have done, but when they are done they are done.

“We have to get on. I want to be defined by the things I continue to do, not the things I have done. It’s more about the things I can still do.”

The 71-year-old, who has lived permanently in Raglan since the early 2000s, says for him retirement is about getting into life.

“Up until now I have had a career,” and most recently that meant living in Auckland, Monday to Friday, for two years, holding the reins for College Sport, “107 secondary schools, 100,000 students, 45 different sports”, and “always being asked to do stuff”.

“I’ve done enough doing. I decided I wanted to get selfish, do some stuff for me.

“I don’t want to be in a public position any more.”

That has also meant walking away from the Raglan Chamber of Commerce because, while Raglan is important to Dave, there is a lot happening in the community regarding growth and change.

“There’s a lot of energy there for the next few years and I don’t want to do that.

“There needs to be generational change, really. I am an old bugger. If the chamber is to remain relevant it has to be relevant to a new and younger thriving business community.”

Dave will always have a view, however, and he believes that the Raglan Naturally document is really important for the development of the town.

“There needs to be a link between the community board and the chamber, the business community, and the arts, what they are all doing.”

The Rangitahi Peninsula development “will change the dynamic of Raglan”, as will new business enterprises. It’s about holding on to what attracted us all to Raglan in the first place but also making sure we don’t get stuck in a time warp, arguing the petty stuff.

“The community does have a right to help shape what our community will look like.

“Uniqueness is what drew us all to Raglan. Lets not lose the essence of the reason why we are all here. We don’t want to end up like everywhere else, lose our identity. There needs to be a balance.

“Through Raglan Naturally, that’s the way to do it.

“People have got to learn to be better at talking to one and other about things that grieve us.

“If we do nothing and don’t engage we will wake up in five years’ time and go how the hell did that happen!

“If you don’t engage in the process then don’t complain in 10 years’ time.”

For his part, Dave plans on putting his energy into “the environmental space, now”.

He loves gardening, grows all his own veges, and in his lifetime has developed two 2-acre gardens, one in Raglan at his former Greenslade Rd property.

“The whole environmental thing is very important to me … We don’t have a right to leave the planet as a worse place for our grandchildren.

“I look at what my generation has done in the last 50 years and it ain’t good.

“I would rather be out setting traps and planting trees. I could do something helpful.”

In the meantime, Dave is enjoying watching the rhythm of life from his kitchen window, out across the harbour – the tide coming in and out and the sun’s path across the sky and across the different seasons.

Productively, he’s been helping his sister renovate her house, although a phonecall with his plumber mid-interview reveals a bit more: “We have wrecked the house,” Dave tells him, “the sooner we can put it back together the better”.

His sister is retiring here, one of the many drawn to Raglan for its natural beauty, “more Auckland refugees coming down”.

Dave continues to keep fit and be active with yoga – “that’s emotionally and physically great for me”, mountainbiking and tramping.

“I walked around Ruapehu a few weeks ago.

“I’m going to bike around the East Cape, up around Waikaremoana, walk around the lake…

“I want to go to Europe. I’ve done a lot of travel through the work I have done but didn’t get a chance to really see anything.”

But there is one thing he isn’t going to do and that is “let myself get old and cynical”.

Inger Vos