2 Minutes with ...


Dr Eddie Robertson is one of the volunteers who helps out at the Tawa Community Centre, the most 'senior' of the team in terms of age. In his working life, he rose to the top in the old DSIR (Department of Scientific & Industrial Research). It wasn't until retirement that he had the time to become interested in community matters, asking himself: "What goes on in this Tawa place?"

He is a very interesting individual to talk to, a rather jovial character in many respects (not at all shy and retiring), and we are privileged to have him giving us a hand at the community centre.

Where were you born, Eddie?
Petone, NZ.

Where did you grow up?
Petone up to form 5, then Lower Hutt.

What about college and tertiary education?
Hutt Valley High, then Victoria University. Completed an MSc degree (1st class hons) in mathematics about the outbreak of the war. Gained a Shirtcliffe Fellowship which entitled me to three years study and research overseas. It was held over till after the war during which time I was in the navy. In 1947 I gained my PhD in Geophysics at Imperial College at the University of London, also completed a one year Imperial College Diploma in Geophysics.

What was your line of work before retirement?
Geophysics. After the war I joined the DSIR and was the director of the Geophysics Division. In my last 10 years before retirement, I was the Director General of the DSIR in central Wellington. That included being scientific adviser to the military and on Antarctic service to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These three roles involved a lot of travelling.

What about family?
My late wife was Star Robertson. I have 2 daughters, 6 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren (the oldest two are both 15).

What are your interests/hobbies?
Used to go tramping, now shorter bush walks around Tawa. U3A Tawa, Probus Kenepuru. Regularly visit family in Auckland, friends in Christchurch, and I visit various elderly friends in the Wellington area, "not to fill in time but because it's right and proper. I do a lot of that."

I also help the NZ Futures Trust whose main activities are monthly lunchtime seminars and a quarterly journal. There are a couple of working groups which study some aspect of life which is likely to be important in the future, e.g. energy or, this year, the ethnic mix of New Zealand's population.

How long have you lived in Tawa?
27 years. Previously lived in Karori for 15 years and, before that, Titahi Bay for 10 years.

What do you think is great about Tawa?
Very handy to Wellington - very good rail service and only takes 12 minutes by car. Also has a relaxed, holiday-type of atmosphere. "I prefer a place where you have a community spirit. In the big towns you don't have any."

What, if anything, would improve Tawa?
Nothing comes to mind.

What is your favourite dessert?
Apple pie with runny cream.

Favourite sportsperson?
Somebody I admire and is excellent in his position is Dan Carter.

Favourite style of music?

Favourite holiday destination in New Zealand?
I would say the lakes and fiords of southern New Zealand - around Te Anau, Milford, etc. "I went to Dusky Sound last year, where Captain Cook came in."

Favourite quote?
When I had my 90th birthday [earlier this year], I adapted "Lord, help me to be the person my dog thinks I am" to "Lord, help me to be the type of person my daughters think I am."

If you could meet any two or three people (alive or dead), who would they be?
Sir Isaac Newton; Nelson Mandela - I reckon he was one of the most outstanding people in the twentieth century, a great man. "I'd like to meet him."

What two or three things would you take with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
Probably take the Encyclopedia Britannica, two packs of cards, and definitely take a shovel.

What is one talent you would like that you do not have?
"Sounds a bit egotistical, but I can't think of anything."

What is one talent you have that you could not do without?
The ability to reason logically.

What accomplishments/achievements in your life give you satisfaction/pride?
The award of the first Bushman's Thong to a New Zealand scout;
Awarded OBE in 1963 and CBE in 1981 for scientific service to New Zealand;
Awarded Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee medal in 1977.

Any thing or things you would like to do before you die?
I got to Italy two years ago, and would now like to get to northwest Pakistan where the Taleban and Pakistan army are currently "fighting their heads off". Will go for five weeks and it will have to be in June because a couple of passes there aren't clear of snow until then.

Compiled August 2009.

Other Tawa people