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March 10, 2008 | by  | in Online Only |
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Unedited Rodney Hide Interview

RODNEY HIDE INTERVIEW

Emma Daken interviews the man himself.

Can you tell me something about yourself that not many people know?”
“Not many people know that my first degree was in ecology. I did zoology and botany because my passion was the environment, and I got really alarmed, when I was at high school, about the potential for ecological catastrophe. So I did a science degree and then an environmental policy degree at Masters level. And then I got interested in economics as that had a big impact on the way resources get used. So not many people know that. I used to say that I was the only qualified ecologist in Parliament – which is probably still true”. “And since then I understand you have also attained a Masters in Economics”. “Yeah, I did. Later I taught environmental policy and then I did a masters in economics at Montana State University. They had a very good program in economics, but up there they also had some very good think tanks, some very good research going on, on environmental management [and the University] sat right above Yellowstone National Park, so it was a very environmentally aware area”. “Is it true that you graduated with your Masters in half the time (1 year as opposed to 2)?” “yea, in fact I don’t brag about it – I just work hard! Im not very bright in a way, I just work hard. I had a year in which to do it, and the plan had been I just do some paper, but I though that’s pointless – I am one of those people that needs something at the end of it. So I discovered that they couldn’t stop me from enrolling in all the papers – that was the way it worked, it was then up to me to pass. I really had to work, and it was hard because economics at masters level is mostly mathematics. So it was tough, tough you know, but I managed to do it with a bit of help”.

 

What are your memories of your childhood – growing up? Did these have any bearing on your political life?”
“I think your childhood undoubtedly has a huge bearing on your life, the way you see yourself, in every sphere, so therefore politically. I think that it often impacts in ways we cannot see. I can remember school, I can remember the big memories – which I am keen to talk about because they were instructive to me. My father was a truck driver in north Canterbury, It was just great because at every opportunity I could just jump in the truck with him, and we would head off. For me, at the age of 3 or 4 years old, I was in trucks, having what for me was a great adventure. Then when I was sort of 14, 15, I started driving myself”.

 

What did you want to be when you were growing up, and why?”
“I wanted to be a truck driver originally. Like my father. This is the funny thing, I thought if I became a truck driver I would get some money so I could by a car. It was a Ford consol 315 . I thought if I could afford a consol 315, I could perhaps get a girlfriend. And so my whole sort of planning of my future life was based around the prospect of getting a girlfriend. And I doubt I would even have had the courage to ask someone out even if I had a car. But my father said he wanted me to get a trade first. So I went off to find out about going to the power board to be an electrician. And the explained I could start at the 6th form and it would knock a year off my apprenticeship, and the money you got for being an apprentice was so low, that I would actually have been better off going to high school and working over the weekends and holidays. When I went to the 6th form it was just a career changing experience and life changing event because I turned up and suddenly found it quite tough. So I started reading the books which I had never done before. I fell in love with science, a love which has continued to this day. And it sort of happened for me in 6th form, it always amazes me that the decisions that would have such an impact, like being a truck driver or an electrician or going on to university to study science, on the flimsiest of things [to get a girlfriend]. When you’re a young man the hormones rage”.

 

Aside from science, were there any other subjects you studied at high school, which you particularly enjoyed or excelled at?”
I loved science and I liked mathematics, and I didn’t really like much else. We had some quit good teachers, but I found school very boring. It was very drummed into you. I love schools these days because the students participate more – we never did. You just sit there and got lectured at. You know, a young guy and they are lecturing at you all of this stuff, and it’s either too slow or too fast or not the right speed – and I thought ‘I’m sick of this’ – and I would just day dream, and that’s why I loved getting to university. It was sort of like exciting the lectures, and then you did so much other study, and you could go at your own pace. I was good at what I applied myself to, and I got interested in science. I was a very poor writer, and very poor at expressing myself. I only learnt how to write years later, and only learnt how to speak when I began lecturing at [Lincoln] University. I taught at graduate level, in environmental policy, and that really wasn’t public speaking cause we would basically do seminars. Then I swapped across to economics where I taught large classes of 1st & 2nd yr economics – which were a challenge. But that’s when I learnt to speak – Everyone lacks a bit of confidence if they haven’t done it before”.

 

Can you tell me about your life before politics?”
“I went straight off to university and did a science degree. Then when I finished that I worked in mainly labouring jobs. Did a stint with the New Zealand forestry, one summer, sort of helping scientists. And then I went overseas and travelled mainly throughout Europe, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia. I was very fortunate in that I worked in the north sea on oil rigs. This enabled me to save a lot of money so I could have a year travelling on my own. Then I returned to university and did a masters in environmental policy science. Then I taught that and economics. Then I shifted to Auckland and worked with Allan Gibbs – he is a merchant banker / businessmen. This was great cause I hadn’t been exposed to business, and how business operated. So it was very exciting as an economist, because basically business was solving problems which economics in the text books was struggling with. It was marvellous. And then I met Roger Douglas and got elected to Parliament. So that’s me!”.

 

When did you first become interested in politics, and who were your political influences at the time?”
“I had never been interested in politics as politics, because I just thought it was pathetic, and in a way I still do. I am a bit of an individualist, I like getting my own thoughts straight, and that idea of collective action and different committees do interest me. But I got interested in politics in the 80’s, because I started to realise that I was working in science, and i realised that environmental management in policy mattered. So I started to follow policy and economics, and of course that ked me into watching what politicians were doing. But the behaviour of politics and political action never interested me – Until I got to help Roger [Douglas], and got to stand. I thought ‘Gee whiz, this is exciting’. Then I applied myself to politics”

rodhide.jpg

Other than having a successful election, what other political or personal goals have you set yourself for 2008?”
“Well my big one is the Regulatory Responsibility Bill, which I have got before the commerce committee. This is a huge bill, and has a huge impact. I am trying to advance that cause I think we rush to pass legislation all too quickly, and without much thought to the consequences. My big thing is to go into a meeting and ask someone to put their hand up if they haven’t broken the law today. And no one can, cause you wouldn’t know. I am sure I break the law everyday when I walk down the road. And so I want to clean up so we have clearer, simpler laws – so that’s a big goal – to advance that cause. Red tape is out of control”. “Any personal goals?” “Yeah, it’s interesting. For 10 years I just had political goals, and so I devoted myself totally to politics. Then we took such a drubbing in the 2005 election, that it sort of forced a great re think. If you put all of your heart and soul into one thing, and you don’t do well at it, you tend to think I am a total failure. So what I have done since 2005 is work with the party to rebuild it, rebuild our position, rethink our strategy. But, also to take time out to do things that I enjoy. I lost weight, I got going to the gym, I eat better. And as a part of that, I get invited along to a lot of interesting events. So I did a short triathlon for the first time a wee while ago, I couldn’t believe I did that! This weekend I have got a 50km mountain bike ride – pretty tough, the Motutapu ice breaker. Im doing the king of the bay swim – I did one last year, across the harbour, and then they do one the same distance at Takapuna. I’m loving it cause I have never done sport, it wasn’t my thing. So im finding it quite good that I sorta had this break, Im going and doing other things – it’s a great leveller, and a way to meet people. Its very hard to be up yourself, when you are sort of struggling across the harbour in a wetsuit. So it’s a humbling experience. I learnt to dance. Im taking dance lessons, and I have a great dance partner, and we dance once or twice a week, and we get invited to do the odd show. “Do you compete in competitions?” “Im not up to that level yet, but im still working at it – id love to, sure. So those are the sort of things I like to do. And again, I never, never imagined myself dancing, and its quite good because in life we tend to think this is it, and not think outside the box. And going dancing, or running a short triathlon was way out of the box for me. And then you discover ‘hey, I can do this’ once you put your mind to it. It helps enormously in any job, but particularly in politics, because it is very easy to just go with the flow, and think ‘oh, this is how things are run”.

 

What is your most memorable moment as a member of parliament?”
“Oh gosh, there are so many! Gee Whiz. Without doubt, off the top of my head, it is winning Epsom in 2005. because we had such a trauma for 18 months with everyone, everyday writing us off, and then to sneak through – and it was an enormous amount of work from myself and a number of supporters. It would be hard to beat that. It is quite a feeling”.

 

Is there a certain accomplishment in your political career that gives you the most pride?”
“Turning the IRD around [With Dave Henderson – check out the movie ‘We’re here to help’]. That wasn’t easy, and everyone said that couldn’t be done. It was literally a lone mission and I did that pretty early on. And through MMP I established a culture which meant that parliament was going to address the issue of accountability for MP’s expenses. I don’t sort of go on about those two things now, because, in a way, I did my bit. But they were pretty big accomplishments. Achieving them early on, I was quite proud of, and now I can set my sights higher with things like the regulatory responsibility Bill. Because I think we can do so much better in the country, and that means having a government and a parliament that performs. Not like some 19th century talk fest, that lives in the past with its ideas and attitudes, but you know a well functioning institution and organisation, who ever is in charge. And I think we can just do a lot better”.

 

What is the hardest part about being a politician?”
“That you cant do everything. You know? There is so much that you want to do, and there are so many people that you want to see, but you actually physically cant do everything. So its quite hard. I get quite frustrated, cause there is a lot wrong. There is a lot that can be fixed up. But you just cant do everything – sp that’s hard. So you have got to choose what you are doing very carefully”.

 

What do you believe to be essential personal characteristics for a politician?”
“its an interesting one. My observation of politicians is that they often don’t have the characteristics when they turn up – certainly, I didn’t. politicians who do well and succeed, learn them. So for example, I was a very poor listener. And of course, the way I learnt things was through reading. As soon as someone started talking I just switched off. and so that was a big thing that I have learnt. It was very, very hard cause I didn’t realise. I wasn’t even conscience of it. And the other thing I have learnt is that I tended to be a person that analysed the logic, and the arguments on the way to reaching a decision – getting all the facts, and all the knowledge. And in politics, you don’t have the time to do that. Another great skill you learn in politics is to judge people – not harshly, but to weigh them up – to see whether this person is actually on the money, and that person is having me on. So you become a great gauge of people. And I notice that all politicians do that. And then there is another skill when you get here – I think you develop a belief in yourself, because most of us, we don’t like criticism, well politicians (I think it’s great!!), we throw rocks at each other, and that’s our way of saying, ‘well who the hell do you think you are?!’. So you know there is constant criticism – its never accurate, its never fair, its never right. You learn to overcome that, and you learn to develop a sense of self belief. Other people go the other way and leave”.

 

If you could change one thing about New Zealand – what would it be?”
“The relationship that our Government has with New Zealanders. So, instead of making New Zealanders subjects, I would make them citizens”.

 

What would you be doing if you were not involved in politics?”
“I think I would love to have a crack at business. I always admire people who are entrepreneurs, just because of their attitudes, and what they contribute to society. While I have worked in private business, I actually haven’t been in the drivers seat – and I really would like to give that a go. That would be the thing I aspire to. I really admire business. I just think people who go out there and combine resources, and take risks, are amazing. They deserve our total respect”.

 

How has your life changed since becoming a public figure?”
“I cant run out if restaurants with out paying. I have got a greater understanding of New Zealand. Because it is hard to avoid living in a very narrow world. You know, if your at university, or involved in business, you become a politician and you interact with a much wider world. And that’s one of the funny things – we criticise our MP’s for being out of touch, but my observation is that all of our MP’s are very much in touch. Certainly the journalists, who sit in their offices writing that sort of thing. So I have changed in that way. I have also learnt a lot about myself, cause you are tested. You are tested in ways you interact with people, cause people will remember it. And you are tested in ways publicly – what your position is. And so you do learn a lot about yourself. People outside of politics can have lots of opinions, but they are not tested. You come into politics, and your opinions will be tested, often times without wanting – or it might be sticking to your principles, and not being strong enough to stick to them. And so you do get tested – you learn a lot about yourself. “What about post ‘dancing with the stars’?, How has your public profile or celebrity status changed since the show?” “It has made me a lot more relaxed. You tend to worry, and we tend to build up a culture in politics, worrying about being opinionated. When you get interviewed or doing something, thinking ‘aw, they’re going to make a fool of me’, and often times, journalists are trying to get the worst shot. Well once I had been on dancing with the stars, and dropped my dance partner, I mean what more could happen?? And people actually quite enjoyed it, and so that relaxed me. The other thing it did, was it lifted my profile such that it endures. I used to find that if you went on TV 3 nights in a row, people would know who you were, but they would sort of forget about it 3 days later. But because I was on that show, people remember. Everywhere I go, they remember I was on the show. And so I haven’t felt the need to rush off and commentate on every little thing to lift my ‘political profile’. I have actually been able to focus on doing the job, which has been a hug benefit”.

 

What is the best advice you have ever been given and who gave it to you?”
“Richard Prebble said, in politics you have to be very nice to people on your way up, because you will meet them all again when you are going down”.

 

Who are 3 people you would like to meet?”
“I would like to meet Arnold Schwarzenegger! Cause I think he is amazing! Everyone thinks he is an idiot, well then you think ‘hang on, he’s the governor, he was a champion body builder and they still talk about him, and then he was a highly paid movie star!’ and he arrived in the US hardly speaking English. That’s got to be some guy! And then he was in so much trouble as governor that he sorta changed tact. So I would love to meet him. I would just like to shake Bill Gates’ hand – as much as Microsoft products piss me off. I just think its amazing, that you take a bit of code, and build a business out of it – I mean that’s extraordinary that he did that so. Yeah, so just to shake his hand and say ‘ you are amazing!’ . And I guess I like musicians and artists. And I am just trying to think which musician and artist I would like to meet. And I think of the top of my head, it would be Paul McCartney. Because the songs that they gave will live forever, and they provided such happiness and joy through making music, or making a good movie. So I’d like to met him too”.

 

 

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Comments (10)

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  1. Yahan says:

    I love this guy!

    Thanks Emma, very interesting.

  2. Emma says:

    Thanks Yahan, It is always good to get some positive feedback – atleast I know someone reads my profiles!!! Are there any MP’s you would like to read about? Let me know, and I will do my best to set up interviews.

    Cheers,
    Emma.

  3. churr says:

    Emma,

    It would have been nice to see some questions regarding ACT policy. Especially relevant this year would be questions on Student Debt, the current Tertiary funding model, and questions relating to allowances and student support.

    Otherwise it just lets him off the hook a bit.

    Cheers

  4. Emma says:

    I kind of agree with you.
    Essentially when this fearure was started, it was to give an insight into the people behind the politics – kind of like a sports persons profile. It was designed this way so that even those not interested in Politics can get something out of the article.
    I will take your comments on board tho – I have an interview with Bill English coming up, he’s always keen to talk policy!!
    Thanks for the heads up.

  5. Jackson Wood says:

    The interview with John Key discusses policy a bit too… watch out for that next Monday, in the mag and unedited on here.

  6. Glenn says:

    Rodney, you and Heather are starting to get a few people on side – please don’t ruin your chances by bringing on Roger Douglas – his politics have had they’re day. Fresh thinking needed. I think ACT will suffer with the return of Mr Douglas.

  7. matt the truck says:

    Its Roger’s secret. He is still a fully fledged Labour supporter. He has throw in his nomination for ACT at the time when it looks like Nationals will get in. All those swing voters will now swing back to Labour, to prevent a Nats-ACT collation getting in. It has been his plan ever since the 80’s. The evil commie that he is. (Yes, and he is Joel’s uncle, i saw them having lunch the other day…. shhh)

  8. Glenn says:

    Labour is hardly a communist party. Are you one of “Roger’s children”? [left wing in imagination but right-wing in practice OR just consistent, i.e. right wing]?

  9. Oh god. They’re all bad.

  10. Vestal Mastebation says:

    Vote ACT and get Rogered (again).

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