Home > News > Archive > 19th May 2005

PM appreciates ‘dress tips’

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier
Helen Clark at Te Pahu School

By Grant Johnston

Prime Minister Helen Clark went back to her old primary school on Tuesday - and among other ‘gifts’ she was presented with some ‘clothing assistance’ by current pupils.

This was contained in a scrapbook compiled by the pupils and presented to the PM along with a cabbage tree grown at the native tree nursery she was opening - to plant at her Auckland home.

“There’s even some clothing advice in here,” she quipped as she had a quick squiz at the scrapbook.

The spontaneous smile spoke of a Prime Minister who does not take herself too seriously - despite the fact she is currently leading a listing Labour Party in pursuit of a third term in coalition Government, largely by the force of her own personality.

She spoke of her happiness at returning to Te Pahu, where she grew up and had family links with for the first 37 years of her life (through her parents’ farm on Limeworks Loop Road).

She recognised some of the faces in the crowd, including Waipa Mayor Alan Livingston who she said was “a couple of years” behind her at Te Pahu School.

Ms Clark said returning to school brought back some happy memories, although everything seemed so much smaller than it had when she was five years old - including a tree in which tennis balls got lost (which drew an ironic guffaw from someone).

She said the educational opportunities available in New Zealand today were even greater - with communications and environmental aspects to add to the traditional academic, artistic and sporting opportunities of her youth.

The Prime Minister said she was delighted to be opening the nursery - dedicated to passionate Te Pahu conservationist Tony Fraser who passed away last year. She said it was wonderful that the children would be able to nurture native seedlings until they were ready to help replenish the native bush in the environment. She recalled hearing tui, bellbird, fantail and white-eyes in the bush when she was younger - but had never heard a kiwi on Pirongia.

“It would be terrible if we only ever heard the kiwi on offshore islands. The very big project at Maungatautari to fence the whole forest park will be a wonderful project, especially if the whole vision can be achieved.”

Ms Clark spoke about the reserve alongside Kaniwhaniwha Stream, which was the “old picnic paddock” on her parents’ farm. The fact Council had purchased the land and that the school had taken a special interest (with plantings etc) was great, she said.

“You can never start too young to work on these (conservation) issues.”

One of the Prime Minister’s companions at the ceremony at Te Pahu School was new Labour candidate for Taranaki-King Country Maryan Street (see story page 4*).

“I couldn’t believe the Taranaki-King Country Electorate contained Te Pahu,” Ms Clark said. “What has Te Pahu got in common with Stratford.”

‘Shakespeare’ quipped one quick-witted local - referring to the Shakespeare in the field performances by a Te Pahu-based theatre group.

The weather may have been gloomy and she may have been in National heartland territory, but the welcome home for Helen Clark at her old school was warm hearted and genuine.

Teacher Tonia Eckhoff says the portfolio/scrapbook was the first unit for the year for Room 5 - the PM being their choice of a famous New Zealander to study. They set about designing and depicting ways of helping her in her role - including a ‘magic wardrobe’ that would assist in choosing her clothes and a ‘dresser porter’ to actually dress her.

“There wasn’t any inference she is not a good dresser - but she joked about that, probably because she’s been picked on for it in the past,” Mrs Eckhoff says.

“The pupils were impressed that she enjoys tramping and hiking and the environment.”

They learned the first political role she tried for was as a National backbencher.

There was a rap song and poems about the PM written by the children. Comments included: “Caring about people who need help, Responsible for looking after NZ, The nation is important to her, Reliable, Honest, Loyal, Never gives up”.

* PDF file