Not afraid to get her hands dirty

Dairy farmer’s daughter from Howick prefers to be behind the scenes.

Dairy farmer’s daughter from Howick prefers to be behind the scenes.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Part of Pat Seymour’s philosophy is making a contribution. She is not afraid of hard work and getting things done. Photo by Paul Rickard

Many a person has sidled up to Pat Seymour and suggested she throw her hat in the ring for the Gisborne mayoralty, or step up to become the next National Party MP . . . but the dairy farmer’s daughter from Howick prefers to be behind the scenes.

“I would rather be doing the grunt stuff,” says Pat, who has just been elected for her sixth term on the Gisborne District Council — it is the third time she has been unopposed for the Tawhiti-Uawa ward.

She was one of eight newbies who joined council with the then new mayor Meng Foon.

“It was a significant change in council,” she said.

But Pat was no stranger to governance, community work and advocacy, and has long been well known for her involvement in a raft of organisations.

“Part of my philosophy is making a contribution, and I believe I am doing just that.”

Pat grew up on a lifestyle block in Howick. Her dad owned a nearby dairy farm and with her sister Lee she always had plenty of animals, and particularly calves. When it comes to that, not much has changed in the 50 years since she moved to Whangara as the new wife of Nick Seymour on Wensleydale Station. She still raises her calves every year.

“My parents had a very strong work ethic,” says Pat. “No one had a lot of money and you didn’t borrow it. You didn’t get anything unless you could pay for it — it was quite different from the world of today.”

Her father slowly added to his dairy farm on the Hauraki Plains, and Pat now owns that with her sister Lee.

“So I well understand issues around intensive livestock and everything that goes with it.”

At 18, Pat was working in the blood transfusion service at Auckland Hospital, and it wasn’t long after that she moved to the East Coast.

The Seymour family have been in Whangara since 1876 and the property she and Nick live on has been in the family since 1912.

The couple have three adult children who all grew up on the farm, 38kms from Gisborne, but headed to boarding school. That led to Pat getting more involved in the wider community and politics.

In the 1990s, she was the president of the Plunket Society of New Zealand and she says it is this involvement that taught so much.

“It was a wonderful growing opportunity for women as we were doing commercial activities as volunteers.”

School committees and the Early Childhood Development Unit followed. She chaired the unit for nine years and at the same time was also elected to the Cook Hospital Board and later to the Area Health Board where she was appointed chair.

As entrenched as she has been in the National Party — for 17 years she chaired the East Coast Electorate, only stepping aside two years ago when she thought it was time for someone else to “have a turn” — she has never felt remotely interested in chasing her own political glory.

“Nick always said he didn’t want to be married to a politician, so I have no interest in it at all. Nick is so supportive of all that I have done.”

And while she has docked plenty of sheep and done lots of shed sweeping, she hasn’t had to work beside Nick on the farm.

Helping them for 35 years were Tu and Mate White, who were like family with the Seymours. In recent years, Nick and Pat have leased out 600 of their 800 hectares. Nick still has his forestry interests, agroforestry and QEII covenants.

For six years, Pat was on the QEII board as the land owners’ representative for New Zealand. She is very proud of the four QEII covenants they have on Wensleydale, the largest of which is 25 hectares.

A keen gardener, she is currently growing thousands of little flax that will eventually end up in one of the covenants.

The couple developed the large homestead garden from scratch and it has been well-used for many a community event. Getting her fingers in the dirt is her release.

The many miles she drives are a time for reflection and coming up with all sorts of quips — only half of which ever see the light of day.

For five-and-a-half years, Pat chaired the Fresh Water Advisory Group, which drove the development of the fresh water plan.

“It was a diverse group of land owners, people with environmental interests and iwi, and I have to say initially was one of the most challenging committees I have chaired.”

She is also a lay member of the Nursing Council of New Zealand and chairs the War Memorial Theatre Trust.

“Council is an unusual environment to come into. People used to ask me whether I enjoyed it in those early days . . . I don’t think it is something you enjoy, but it satisfying and I believe we are making a difference.”

According to Pat, key to a good council is team work, and an understanding of what it means to be a councillor.

“You can’t be a single-issue councillor and I think sometimes there is a lack of appreciation of the breadth of information a councillor needs to absorb if you are going to do your job effectively for the community.”

This grandmother of two doesn’t look back with any regrets, despite disagreeing with some of the more public decisions of council — like the current rebuild of the council buildings.

And she says she will continue to serve the district for as long as she is wanted.

“Council meetings are the least attractive part of being a councillor — it is supporting residents’ issues and seeing things happen that really do make it satisfying.”

Many a person has sidled up to Pat Seymour and suggested she throw her hat in the ring for the Gisborne mayoralty, or step up to become the next National Party MP . . . but the dairy farmer’s daughter from Howick prefers to be behind the scenes.

“I would rather be doing the grunt stuff,” says Pat, who has just been elected for her sixth term on the Gisborne District Council — it is the third time she has been unopposed for the Tawhiti-Uawa ward.

She was one of eight newbies who joined council with the then new mayor Meng Foon.

“It was a significant change in council,” she said.

But Pat was no stranger to governance, community work and advocacy, and has long been well known for her involvement in a raft of organisations.

“Part of my philosophy is making a contribution, and I believe I am doing just that.”

Pat grew up on a lifestyle block in Howick. Her dad owned a nearby dairy farm and with her sister Lee she always had plenty of animals, and particularly calves. When it comes to that, not much has changed in the 50 years since she moved to Whangara as the new wife of Nick Seymour on Wensleydale Station. She still raises her calves every year.

“My parents had a very strong work ethic,” says Pat. “No one had a lot of money and you didn’t borrow it. You didn’t get anything unless you could pay for it — it was quite different from the world of today.”

Her father slowly added to his dairy farm on the Hauraki Plains, and Pat now owns that with her sister Lee.

“So I well understand issues around intensive livestock and everything that goes with it.”

At 18, Pat was working in the blood transfusion service at Auckland Hospital, and it wasn’t long after that she moved to the East Coast.

The Seymour family have been in Whangara since 1876 and the property she and Nick live on has been in the family since 1912.

The couple have three adult children who all grew up on the farm, 38kms from Gisborne, but headed to boarding school. That led to Pat getting more involved in the wider community and politics.

In the 1990s, she was the president of the Plunket Society of New Zealand and she says it is this involvement that taught so much.

“It was a wonderful growing opportunity for women as we were doing commercial activities as volunteers.”

School committees and the Early Childhood Development Unit followed. She chaired the unit for nine years and at the same time was also elected to the Cook Hospital Board and later to the Area Health Board where she was appointed chair.

As entrenched as she has been in the National Party — for 17 years she chaired the East Coast Electorate, only stepping aside two years ago when she thought it was time for someone else to “have a turn” — she has never felt remotely interested in chasing her own political glory.

“Nick always said he didn’t want to be married to a politician, so I have no interest in it at all. Nick is so supportive of all that I have done.”

And while she has docked plenty of sheep and done lots of shed sweeping, she hasn’t had to work beside Nick on the farm.

Helping them for 35 years were Tu and Mate White, who were like family with the Seymours. In recent years, Nick and Pat have leased out 600 of their 800 hectares. Nick still has his forestry interests, agroforestry and QEII covenants.

For six years, Pat was on the QEII board as the land owners’ representative for New Zealand. She is very proud of the four QEII covenants they have on Wensleydale, the largest of which is 25 hectares.

A keen gardener, she is currently growing thousands of little flax that will eventually end up in one of the covenants.

The couple developed the large homestead garden from scratch and it has been well-used for many a community event. Getting her fingers in the dirt is her release.

The many miles she drives are a time for reflection and coming up with all sorts of quips — only half of which ever see the light of day.

For five-and-a-half years, Pat chaired the Fresh Water Advisory Group, which drove the development of the fresh water plan.

“It was a diverse group of land owners, people with environmental interests and iwi, and I have to say initially was one of the most challenging committees I have chaired.”

She is also a lay member of the Nursing Council of New Zealand and chairs the War Memorial Theatre Trust.

“Council is an unusual environment to come into. People used to ask me whether I enjoyed it in those early days . . . I don’t think it is something you enjoy, but it satisfying and I believe we are making a difference.”

According to Pat, key to a good council is team work, and an understanding of what it means to be a councillor.

“You can’t be a single-issue councillor and I think sometimes there is a lack of appreciation of the breadth of information a councillor needs to absorb if you are going to do your job effectively for the community.”

This grandmother of two doesn’t look back with any regrets, despite disagreeing with some of the more public decisions of council — like the current rebuild of the council buildings.

And she says she will continue to serve the district for as long as she is wanted.

“Council meetings are the least attractive part of being a councillor — it is supporting residents’ issues and seeing things happen that really do make it satisfying.”

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