In his early 80s the Hon George Gair could have happily sat back and reflected on his years.As a former member of Parliament, North Shore City mayor, high commissioner to London and once upon a time a journalist, he has much to reflect on.
But a challenge from an old parliamentary colleague has seen 83-year-old Hon George Gair just graduate from AUT University with a Masters of Philosophy in Public Policy.
The prompting came from the Institute of Public Policy’s Professor Marilyn Waring whose father, also in his 80s, had gone back to university. Gair says it was a friendly challenge from Prof Waring who suggested that age was no barrier.
The hills ahead still have some steep slopes in terms of what Gair wants to achieve he says. “It’s never too late to do it. You’re never too old to be learning and keeping the mind active.”
While a masters is a huge undertaking for anyone, Gair, who originally delayed starting his MPhil due to poor health, says he looked upon it as an exercise to prepare himself better for writing his own autobiography one day.”
Along with Prof Waring, Grant Gillon, a former Alliance MP, also helped to supervise Gair. The trio would meet regularly to go over his research and plan the next steps.
Gair’s thesis, Managing Change as a Minister of the Crown, did not survery other peoples’ thoughts and opinions as the field work for most masters study does. Rather “it was essentially semi-autobiographical,” he says.
“What you learn in life is a valuable process. What you learn, you can pass onto others.”
In the change process, every change is different, there are different reasons for change and you need to address each situation differently. But the common factor in all change is the ‘people factor’, he says.
“In the process of managing change, it’s about how you manage people- colleagues, the opposition- you need to reduce their ability to frustrate you and avoid getting them all whipped up on something.”
Gair’s thesis reflects on his experience from Parliament where at one point he was looking after health and social welfare and responsible for spending about 40 per cent of the government’s budget.
“I think there’s a great deal that can be learned from looking at past experiences. There’s no formula in the change process that automatically applies because the solution relates to the nature of the problem you’re dealing with.
Also noted at graduation this year alongside the Hon George Gair was Sir Don McKinnon who was conferred an honorary doctorate from the university for his significant contribution to restorative justice and conflict resolution in national and international forums.