2 Minutes with ...


En route to speak with Robert Armstrong, I (Malcolm - Ed.) asked myself what I already knew or thought I knew about him. Five aspects came to mind. He had lived in Tawa for most or all of his life, he used to be a Wellington City Councillor, he is or was a lawyer, he travels overseas quite regularly, and he drives or used to drive a Mercedes Benz. I was also of the opinion that he could be regarded as one of Tawa's more "prominent identities".

After a three-hour interview (somewhat longer than usual because the subject of this profile was "rather forthcoming" with information!) I had learned considerably more about Robert Armstrong. In fact I could write a small book, but I'm not going to. Having lived in Tawa for more than 50 years, he knows more about this locality than most do. The following is a somewhat condensed version of our interview. And I never did ascertain whether he still drives the Merc!

Where were you born, Robert?

Where did you grow up?
First 10 years in Miramar before the family moved to Tawa where my father's business, Armstrong Timber Company, was based. Up to half the houses built in Tawa in the 1950s and 60s used timber supplied by the family firm. Our home was in Cecil Road, Tawa.

Where were you educated?
Firstly at Marist Miramar Primary. In my last year (standard 6), I travelled to Miramar from Tawa. It was quite a trek for an 11/12 year old, catching the 7.17am train and the no. 2 tram from the railway station to Miramar. Secondary was at St Patrick's College. Graduated from Victoria University with LL.B & BCA degrees, one following on from the other, some part-time. Majored in business administration because I wanted options additional to practising law.

What is your line of work?
I practised law for 30 years with Chapman Tripp, a well-known national law firm, 24 years as a partner. Specialised in property and trust law, commercial and finance. Retired from law in 1994. First elected to Weliington City Council in 1995, representing Tawa ward along with Kerry Prendergast. 1998 to 2007 represented Northern ward.

Still involved in some consulting. Still active in assisting people with family investments and suchlike, and I'm occasionally contracted by the Council as a Resource Consent Commissioner.

What about family?
Married to Carol 41 years, with four adult daughters and six grandchildren so far.

What are your interests/hobbies?
Family first, then "in no particular order ..." sport (still active in cricket, golf and tennis, and following many others), played rugby when I was young. Travel - I've visited over 100 countries.

My Parish Church Community. Honorary Solicitor for a number of organisations keeping in touch with the community. Rotary (36 years) and many other community organisations, e.g. Tawa Historical Society. Patron of North City (formerly Tawa) Cricket Club (Life Member), and Tawa Tennis Club. "I won the men's singles four times in my youth."

I also love statistics, especially sporting. In the 1960s I was addicted to American baseball trivia.

How long have you lived in Tawa?
Since 1955.

What do you think is great about Tawa?
The geographic constraints create a defined sense of place and independence. Therefore there is strong community cohesion, based on conservative family values, which are reflected in the many strong voluntary organisations.

What, if anything, would improve Tawa?
Very little. I'd like to think we can retain the existing spacious residential character and restrict further infill housing.

What is your favourite dessert?
Crème brulée. We often visit France. It comes as a little bowl of custard with a burnt top. "There's never enough for me."

Favourite sports team and/or sportsperson?
The All Blacks (I've supported them at several World Cups), Roger Federer, and Tiger Woods. I've attended Wimbledon three times, Roland Garros and the Australian Open. Hoping to attend the US Open this year. I've followed Woods on courses in four countries.

Favourite musical group or style of music?
Country & western music. I love "Van the Man" - Van Morrison. His CD is usually in my car. Also like early (1950s) rock 'n' roll. "Love that stuff."

Favourite holiday destination in New Zealand?
Waitarere Beach, "our beach haven".

Favourite quote or sayings?
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" - it's from the Bible.
"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog." [by Mark Twain - Ed.]

If you could meet any two or three people (alive or dead), who would they be?
Jesus Christ - "top of my list"
Leonardo da Vinci - "hugely talented, moreso perhaps than anyone in history"
Julius Caesar - "a leader of the then known civilised world".

What three things would you take with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
A solar-powered internet access system designed to give me all the information I need, to survive. I could arrange to leave whenever I wish, "if somebody will come and get me!" Also my family album, and a large can of sunscreen.

What is one talent you would like that you do not have?
To be a quality piano player - "to sit down, relax and play a tune."

What is one talent you have that you could not do without?
A good memory. "I am told my memory is like a steel trap, possibly meaning different things to different people." I also value my sense of humour. However the kids don't always appreciate it!

What accomplishments/achievements in your life give you much satisfaction/pride?
The successful raising of four daughters in conjunction with Carol, all now university graduates.
Using my God-given talents to help those less fortunate than myself. That goes with "doing unto others as you would have them do unto you."

What is some "interesting" things about you that local people might not know?
I've met a lot of people through sport. Muhammad Ali spoke to me and shook my hand in Upper Hutt. I've talked to Tiger Woods and President George Bush Snr, and I've dined with cricketers such as Dennis Lillee, Sir Richard Hadlee and Barry Richards, among others.
I've hitchhiked from Vancouver to New York, sold encyclopaedias door-to-door in San Francisco, met the Queen, spent 8 years as a Territorial Army Officer, bungee-jumped in Queenstown, and have played cricket in 12 countries in the last decade.
In my youth I represented Wellington in four different sports - "my competitive instinct coming through."
I've been arrested in both communist Russia and Mexico - misunderstandings! [Of course - Ed.]
As a youngster touring the world, I visited many Olympic Stadiums, including two weeks at the Mexico Olympics (1968).
I love sausages and mash, mushy peas, custard squares and hokey pokey ice cream.

What are two or three things you would like to do before you die?
I want to visit ancient city Petra, Jordan, as well as Cuba. "Both currently in planning."
Score a hole-in-one at my golf club. ("I've got one elsewhere.")
See my grandchildren grow up as intelligent, hardworking contributors in their community.
I'd like to spend many more happy, active years with Carol.

Compiled January 2011.

Other Tawa people