Interview with Darrel Latham

Posted on 10th August 16

Dr Darrell Latham (pictured centre) answers a few questions about Sumner life...
What's your association with Sumner?
My wife Lee and I first moved to Sumner to live in 1978 when  I commenced training as a teacher of deaf children. I taught at the School for Deaf and Sumner primary School.  Our three daughters were born here. As a child I used to Sumner with my retired grandfather who did some part time work at the Marine Service Station. That was back in the days when Ted Clayton owned the garage. I loved Sumner then and it is wonderful to retire back here after some years away chasing career objectives
Tell us about your work with the University of Otago?
My involvement with the University of Otago and the Dunedin College of Education initially was in the area of coordinating teacher professional development. However, when I completed my Masters and Doctoral degrees I ended up in a Senior Lecturers position where I had the responsibility for coordinating  postgraduate programmes at the University of Otago College of Education. I also supervised students undertaking their Masters and Doctoral research. My Doctoral research strength was in the area of educational leadership. As well I taught Human Development to first year teacher trainees.
So now you are retired are you working any less?
Ha ha! I always thought that retirement would mean less work. However, since my wife and I retired we have been busier than ever. First we spent a solid 8 months landscaping around our Sumner home which we recently renovated and extended.
We have three adult daughters who started their schooling in Sumner. During the last three years we have become proud grandparents so life has been busy. Our children enjoying coming back to Sumner. Part of their childhood was here and they have very fond memories of growing up here.
Retirement is busy but in a different way. My wife jokes that our main aim is to have breakfast over by 9 am!  Less pressure for us both in some ways after a full time working career, paying a mortgage and raising a family however, that is the same for everyone isn’t it. Retirement does mean that I have the opportunity to give a little back to the community because I did not really have that option before. Sumner is a wonderful community and it is really thrilling to see the positive changes that are taking place with the new library and the Sumner village master plan work due to commence soon. I am pleased to be able to be part of this.
You are on the Committee of the SCRA, tell us about your involvement with this group?
Peter Hansen and Alisdair Hutchinson got me involved in the Sumner Community Residents Association initially to help out with a few submissions. I really enjoyed working with them on the submissions as well as ‘’fighting the good fight’’ with the Council to ensure that the Sumner voice was heard. I was later co-opted to the SCRA and now I have a more active involvement along with other locals who are doing some wonderful work for the Sumner community. When you go behind the scenes and see the wonderful work that is being put in by local people and the hours they spend on behalf of their community I am humbled and hope that I can make a small contribution to the betterment of the Sumner Community.
You have put many hours into submissions on the behalf the SCRA and residents of Sumner, what motivates you?
Sumner is a wonderful place to live, its unique. Sumner was hit hard by the earthquakes and confidence took a hit. The community is now in an exciting new phase of development and I enjoy being part of that change and that motivates me. I think it is good to give back to the community in some way. As well I would like to think that I am making a contribution towards improving things for both the current as well as the next generation. That motivates me.
Which Submission do you feel the most strongly about?
There have been many submissions that Alisadair Hutchinson and myself have worked jointly on over the last 10 months related to the Sumner Lyttelton Corridor geotechnical mitigation works. The submissions related to the Shag Rock Reserve, fencing and the amount of fill and height of the bunds has proved both interesting and challenging. Alisadair Hutchinson is a mind of information and together we have influenced the outcome with respect to the amount of fill and the height of the bunds in this location. I have also had a close involvement with the  coastal hazards policy and  a lot of work that has gone in related to this. I feel strongly about this policy as the CCC failed to engage with the community during the development of the policy and it has now come back to bit them on the butt big time. I prepeared the draft annual plan for the SCRA and had the opportunity to highlight Sumner issues at a briefing with the Mayor and City Councillors.
You now write political columns for the likes of The Press, one of which supported the re-opening of Redcliffs school. What do you think of Hekia Parata's handling of this decision making process?
I have enjoyed writing articles for the Christchurch Press and the Otago Daily Times over the years. Hekia Parata would not rate as one of the more popular Education Ministers. The initial decision to close Redcliffs school had no merit and it was simply political pressure that made her step back from the brink of closing the school. If the community did not fight for the schools retention then it would have been closed. The ministers decision to keep the school open was great. However, she did not do that because she thought the community were deserving, she did it because of political pressure and fallout.
What other groups/boards or committees are you are part of?
I am a committee member of Christchurch Coastal Residents United. We were successful in getting an extension to the submissions timeframe and ultimately the complete removal of the Coastal Hazards chapter from the Christchurch District Plan process and a new National framework for Coastal Hazards policy. We are currently in the process of reviewing the Coastal Hazards Report so as to ensure that coastal residents (e.g. Sumner) are not disadvantaged with respect to planning laws.
What do you think makes Sumner a great place to live?
It is physically and geographically isolated from the rest of Christchurch and it is a real community. It has a beautiful beach and coastline and it can be both a quiet and reflective place to live as well as a vibrant and exciting place. The best of all worlds.
What do you do in your down time?
I still enjoy running but I am a bit slower and don’t run as far as I used to. Mountain bikes are great and my wife and I enjoy getting out for a cycle around and about Sumner. Reading for enjoyment is wonderful and relaxing. It beats reading academic articles and critiquing them! Grandchildren are a delight apart from the fact that they make you feel older. We enjoy catching up with them. Seeing the world through their eyes is great fun. Also you can give them back!!
What has been your greatest  personal achievement?
Having a truly wonderful wife and three lovely daughters............ and now three grandchildren – sweet as!
What do you think Christchurch will be like in 10 years time?
Christchurch will be one of the most modern cities in the world within the next 10 years. The redevelopment that is taking place currently means that Christchurch citizens will be the benefactors of exciting urban environments as well as beautiful seaside village communities like Sumner