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Holly Walker - Protester, Dunedin

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ditto, and ditto again

When I received a text message on Sunday afternoon informing me of Rod Donald's untimely death, I got that feeling that I got when Princess Diana died, and also on the morning of September 12, 2001. It's like a shift of some sort, a radical pull in a direction unexpected, a realignment. It's not that the world has changed, or that things will never be the same again, but for a second, it's like something totally unexpected has thrown your comfy existence into a tailspin.

Of course even within hours of hearing such news, you start to process it, and it starts to become part of the background of known information that informs your existence. But just for a second, it's like you can feel the political landscape changing.

And change it has, with the loss of this special man. He was, in the words of another friend who sent a particularly flowery text to inform me of the sad news, "one of the most humble and tirelessly honest politicians" New Zealand has ever known. Noone could have predicted his death, or the amazing outpouring of grief and condolence that has followed it, but this at least is testament to the fact that it wasn't just Green voters who saw how valuable Rod Donald was as a leader and politician.

For my part, my favourtie memory of Rod Donald was my introduction to him: watching a video in 4th form social studies about the 1981 Springbok tour, which followed five individuals, some pro-tour, some anti, during that fraught time. Rod Donald was "the radical", and dressed in his tight 80s pants, fluro bike helmet, and with crazy ginger beard, he certainly made an impression on me. I thought he looked pretty silly, but I actually remember going home and telling my mum that I wished I had something to protest about like that.

She told me to protest the cost of tertiary education; good advice, it turns out, $26,000 later. Otago's University Council is holding its fee setting meeting this afternoon, and while I am no longer a student here, I intend to go and make my presence felt at the protest outside - the bouncy castle, sausage sizzle, balloon animals and vertical bungy are just an added bonus. Actually, compared to most institutions this time around, Otago's fee setting process has been pretty admirable - they didn't hold their meeting out of town, haven't applied for an exemption from the Fee Maxima, and didn't slap an injunction on Critic. But they will probably raise fees by 5%, despite running a massive surplus and wasting millions of dollars on that stupid advertising campaign, so I'll be there.

And I'll spare a little thought for Rod.