Q&A: Bob Francis: Mr Wairarapa
Since stepping down from the Masterton mayoralty in 2007 after 21 years in the job, Bob Francis has been at the centre of numerous Wairarapa and regional projects. He has been chairman of the district health board and chair of the Pukaha Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre for 10 years, an international rugby referee, and is chairman of Wings Over Wairarapa, which is on this weekend.
Are you as busy now as you were as mayor?
Yes, though it is considerably different. I don't have the constant demands of the mayoralty with weekend and night commitments, attending meetings, functions and special events.
What motivated you to step into public life all those years ago and what motivates you now?
At an early age I became involved in cricket and rugby administration and slowly developed a strong interest in the governance of those two sporting codes. The move into local government politics and other governance roles was a natural progression from sports administration. Wairarapa is progressing through a strong period of growth, it is exciting to be part of that.
You are known as a man who gets things done; what is the key to moving a project along and getting a result?
The key is to bring together a quality and committed team who believe in the project, develop a plan and then through good process and discipline progress the project in a structured manner. With community projects there is a need sell the project and encourage strong community involvement.
What is the single project that you have most enjoyed being a part of?
My 10-year involvement at Pukaha Mt Bruce has been the most satisfying and enjoyable in leading the organisation to be now recognised nationally and internationally as an outstanding conservation facility. Dealing with the social unrest in the region through the 1980s and 1990s, which included major gang problems, police bombings and fires, the Ratima murders, family violence issues and the closing of the Waingawa Freezing Works was the most challenging period of my life.
Why should people head along to Wings Over Wairarapa this weekend?
There are a number of features including the British Aerosparx motorised gliders shipped out for this one-off show. They will perform at the first night event we have organised and will include aerobatics with smoke, lights and pyrotechnics as part of their display. Another first will be the debut of Royal New Zealand Air Force's new aerobatic team, the Black Falcons, flying the new Beechcraft T-67 Texan ll.
If you have any spare time, how do you make the most of it?
Any spare time I have is spent with my family, including my grandchildren. I have retained a great interest in sport, especially rugby and cricket, and will watch the majority of the Six Nations, which started this month, and our home cricket internationals. Looking forward to Super Rugby and Lions Tour. Gardening and reading remain an important interest.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
I have a wide range of music interests, though keep going back to Willie Nelson and Neil Diamond on a regular basis. Since Ladyhawke returned to Masterton to perform last week I am a new fan.
What is the last book you read?
I recently completed reading Bruce Springsteen's autobiography Born to Run, a great read, and am part way through reading i am Brian Wilson, The Genius behind the Beach Boys.
If you could invite any three people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?
Nelson Mandela – I followed his life and career with interest and enormous admiration, without doubt one of the most influential political leaders of the 20th century. Kane Williamson – emerging as one of our best ever cricket players, he is a class act, respect his understated approach, would be enjoyable to meet and find out more about him. I have followed Alex Ferguson's career as Manchester United coach since 1986, read his two autobiographies and believe a night out with him and a few mates would be special.