When Don Rangi started work at the Treasury, it was just a year after Sir Arnold Nordmeyer's infamous "black Budget".
The East Coaster admits that at 18, he was a little wet behind the ears. "When I first started, I heard all these people talking about the black Budget. I looked at the Budget booklet and I thought, that's funny, the pages all look white to me."
That was 54 years ago and Mr Rangi, whose long career at the Treasury ended yesterday, said a lot had changed in that time.
He remembers accompanying National Party finance minister Harry Lake and some "snappy dressers" from Parliament to open the public service's first computer in 1960. It was colossal, by today's standards. "It was used for the public service payroll. It had about 30,000 people on it. It worked too," he said.
His first job at the Treasury was writing cheques in a government basement. In recent years his position as controller, supply and delegation, saw him making sure government agencies did not overspend on their bank accounts and ensuring they obtained money at the right time to pay their bills.
A life in the public service would have seemed a distant dream when he was born in Tikitiki in 1941.
His carpenter father, Ahipene Rangi, was already dead after a drowning accident in the Waiapu River.
Life was tough for his mother, Mana Manuel, who raised her young family of four with the help of her own parents, Frank Manuel and Iritana Paipa.
Mr Rangi's break came when he passed School Certificate after being taught by a group of talented teachers, including Koro Dewes, at Tikitiki Maori District High School.
That catapulted him into the Treasury job in the Wellington departmental building in Stout St.
He said he knew the time was right to retire when he arrived at work late - by his own standards - at 7.05am on Wednesday to find his co-workers already there.
They were there to remind him of a rash statement he made four years ago, while celebrating 50 years at Treasury.
On that occasion, he said: "The day I come to work and find the office full of workers will probably be the day I'll retire."
He was true to his word. On Wednesday night staff officially farewelled him. Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf, the 12th secretary for whom he has worked, presided over the function.
Bill English is his 12th finance minister. The previous Treasury secretaries were Ted Greensmith, Doug Barker, Noel Davis, Henry Lang, Noel Lough, Bernie Galvin, Graham Scott, Murray Horn, Alan Bollard, Mark Prebble (acting), and John Whitehead.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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