web analytics

Don Presland obituary

Written By: - Date published: 6:30 am, October 23rd, 2017 - 23 comments
Categories: labour, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

Don Presland, father of my good friend Greg Presland, has died.

I will not presume to comment on the family’s grief, rather I will simply mark the things I saw this guy stand for.

Don was a boilermaker back in the day. Guys like Auckland Councillor Mike Lee know what that was like. Don fought from early on against the appalling safety conditions of that work, and many of those workers are still paying the price for the common industry use of asbestos.

Don has been through the best of New Zealand’s unionised times in the 1960s and 1970s when union awards enabled a good standard of living. Unlike now when after decades of low productivity the state needs to prop employers up with effectively large wage subsidies like Working For Families, back then there were good jobs with good pay manufacturing good things, in which a guy like Don could get a house for his family in Mangere Bridge and make it work.

Those things occurred because unions and Labour fought for them and sustained them – and it was people like Don who did the fighting.

He fought hard against the dreaded Employment Contracts Act, and in 2000 was looking forward to a new era when collective bargaining and strong unions would be back again and continue their gradual ratcheting of productivity and performance in New Zealand workplaces.

When he was interviewed by NZHerald reporter about it, he was not in the least bit apologetic about the force of a well organised strike to make employers see sense.

He said: “People will remember the strike, but don’t make the link with their own conditions – they’ll snatch the dough off the table but forget history.” He recounted eight weeks of industrial actions in 1963 to simply get a pay rise of one penny an hour more. If anyone has tried to get a decent pay rise while this current government has been in power, you will probably miss strong unions, because they are the people who got most New Zealanders pay rises.

There are a few from that age of union strength who are now passing. The passing of Mike Daly after decades in the Post Office and that union a month ago was also a great commemorative event: full of stories from people who got his guidance and support to get from a really low place at work, up to achieve great things. They are giants, and their era is hard to see coming back.

In 1999, Don was the President of the EPMU. He was instrumental in the Union pouring huge resources into the election of the fifth Labour Government.

Despite stupid scaremongering from morons in the opposition like Max Bradford, the Labour government’s replacement legislation did not bring about the collapse of businesses across the country. Nor in fact did it lead to a great rise in union membership. But it slowed the rot down. The Labour government’s 2000 policy enabled the survival of individual contracts, as long as they were not inconsistent with collective documents. It did not sanction a return to national occupational or industry awards. It could have done more.

But this is not a note intended to simply get all melancholy about what could have been. It’s simply to celebrate the life of a really good Labour and union man, Don Presland.

Let me give you just one more example. As one of the key Labour and union activists in Mangere, Don was a long-time friend of David Lange for many years. In fact the Presland family have been long time Labour supporters. Don was awarded two gold badges, one from the Engineers Union and one from the Labour Party for services to the movement. They don’t hand either of those out lightly. He was hard core.

Don was one of the selectors of the next candidate for Mangere in 1977 after Colin Moyle resigned following an attack by Robert Muldoon on him which implied Moyle was gay. Labour head office preferred Mike Moore. There were 11 candidates and the selection meeting went well into the night, full of factions and tested loyalties and tough arguments.

The last speaker was a youngish, overweight lawyer called David Lange. And he delivered a speech which blew the crowd away. The committee was split between Lange supporters and Moore supporters. Don decided to shift his support to Lange, and the selection was completed. Given the way that New Zealand history went, his decision that night clearly had a significant effect.

There are plenty of war stories like that about Don, many of which will come out at the wake, stories you only get when you have chosen to be an activist that really organises people on a scale that tilts the direction of whole neighbourhoods, companies, and countries. Didn’t shout about success, got on with the job, but really stood up and fought. His values and the great support of his wife have generated children and grandchildren with similarly strong values that help people to get out of trouble and into a better life, people that aren’t afraid of a fight for the good, and know how to win deep into the long term.

Don Presland was an awesome guy.

23 comments on “Don Presland obituary ”

  1. Ovid 1

    I’m sorry for your loss Greg, Advantage and all of Don’s family and friends. It sounds like he did a lot of good.

  2. Patricia Bremner 2

    My Dad was a mine union rep and a member of the mine rescue team in the 50’s.

    These men were the salt of the earth and we are richer for knowing them.

    Like Helen Kelly, they added hugely to the human condition with staunch values and true grit.

    Their families know their loved one worked and cared about others in often dire conditions.

    So sorry for your loss. Another kauri falls.

  3. Carolyn_nth 3

    A life well loved.

    Condolences to Greg and the rest of Don’s family.

  4. Doogs 4

    Wow! Of such stuff are legends made. Heartfelt sympathies to Greg and family. Don is one of a group who carry the flag of a decent society, one we may see again due to recent events.

  5. r0b 5

    We need more like him. Condolences Greg and family…

  6. eco Maori/kiwi 6

    Many thanks for all your hard work Don your legacy will live long.
    You have Imprinted all your decent Kiwi values and morals on US all lets celebrate your great achievements P.S I would like to see his story on MSM. as this will be a good story to support our new Government. Kia ora

  7. swordfish 7

    Very sorry to hear this

    Heartfelt Condolences to Greg, family and friends

  8. John and I are so sorry to hear about this. Don was a great man, always true to the cause and always on the side of working people. Condolences to the whanau.

  9. Anne 9

    My sincere condolences to you also Greg. I met your father once at an ANZAC function in Takapuna hosted by the North Shore Labour Party. It must have been close on 10 years ago now.

    I was also present at that now famous candidate selection meeting which saw David Lange enter parliament. It was an occasion I will never forget. Years afterwards, I discovered something significant about the Moyle Affair which those involved – including Moyle himself – would have wanted to know. But I have had to keep the information to myself because I never found the right person to tell. Your father would have fitted the bill.

  10. cleangreen 10

    Sorry for the loss of Don Presland he indeed was an awesome guy.

    Don was I hero for all of us, so we will always rememer him.

  11. RIP Don and condolences to Greg and all the whānau.

  12. veutoviper 12

    What a wonderful man. My sincere condolences to you, Greg and all other family and whanu members. How appropriate for his funeral to be held today, Labour Day.

  13. Where would we be without the unions? We wouldn’t be a ‘first world’ nation that for sure.

    It is the experiences of people like this that we have to learn from. As soon as the general populace becomes a pushover the capitalists take everything and destroy it. Exactly as we’ve been seeing over the last few decades.

  14. Karen 14

    Very sorry to hear of Don’s death. He was a great character and a legendary fighter for the rights of workers. My sympathy to Greg and to all those who loved him.

    I was lucky enough to meet Don a few years back at the Māngere Cossie Club. My Dad was a Fitter & Turner, and when he was made redundant a few years short of retiring it was the thanks to Don and the Engineers Union that my Dad got a decent deal.

    Thanks Don, for all you did to make the world a better place. RIP.

    • Ad 14.1

      Just come back now from the Mangere Cossie Club for the wake.

      Awesome funeral, full of Labour MPs, Councillors, local boards, union bigwigs.

      Also huge Pacifika event last night for him.

      Fantastic war stories. Just felt uplifted.

  15. Philg 15

    It’s always uplifting to learn of these good folk who worked for others. As someone said, Righties talk of me, Lefties talk of we. Condolences.

  16. Don taught me how to erect a solid and well presented Hoarding. He was not a believer in heavy backing boards!!
    He always had a twinkle in his eye and was interested in everything. You always left his company with a smile and looking forward to seeing him again.
    I suspect he will have been very chuffed to have been a big part of a Labour Day with a Labour government back in power.

    • mickysavage 16.1

      Cheers comrade

      The priest had this lovely description about how on Wednesday night dad got the angel to do a detour to see Winston and tell him that if he did not go with Jacinda he would be going with them instead!

      Everyone laughed although a few of us wondered …

  17. mickysavage 17

    Thanks Ad for the wonderful post and everyone for your kind words. My dad did not believe in melancholy or giving up. He also believed in the collective.

    He used to call progressives “comrade”. He chose this because everyone was treated equal and it reinforced collectivism.

    One of his most used sayings was don’t mourn, organise. Something I intend to do.

  18. tracey 18

    Aroha Greg

  19. Dean Parker 19

    It’s a dreadful 6pm on Labour Day. I’ve only just found out Don died. He used to ring me at least once a week and vent his spleen on all Tories and he could vent with a vengeance.
    He told me wonderful stories about his father, who was in the Communist Party in Hawkes Bay and a freezing worker at Tomoana.
    I’d often finish up a phone call from Don and go to my diary and write one of his phrases into it — “The world’s divided into Micks, Mugs and Masons, comrade…”
    I remember going out to Mangere Market once where he was helping with a Labour Party stall and seeing the respect with which the Mangere community treated him.
    Janet, Greg–it’s a shocking loss but you’re so fortunate to have shared a life like that.


  20. Patricia 20

    My brother Don walked same road all his life– followed in his father’s footsteps Percy Boon Presland, ( one arm and four half fingers) Dad always worked hard
    Don was born with same grit and determination — as youngster Don was determined never budge over any issue if he thought that was the road to walk

    As familly we walked a road today what would be called child poverty– no handouts we were taught cut your cloth according to your needs–

    I admired my Brother we did not always see eye to eye but respect and love I had for him– he will be starting up union in the heavens with Dad keeping an eye on Wily Winston– Don’s family were always first.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • COVID-19 vaccine slated for possible approval next week
    The green light for New Zealand’s first COVID-19 vaccine could be granted in just over a week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today. “We’re making swift progress towards vaccinating New Zealanders against the virus, but we’re also absolutely committed to ensuring the vaccines are safe and effective,” Jacinda Ardern said. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    8 hours ago
  • New ACC Board members announced.
    The Minister for ACC is pleased to announce the appointment of three new members to join the Board of ACC on 1 February 2021. “All three bring diverse skills and experience to provide strong governance oversight to lead the direction of ACC” said Hon Carmel Sepuloni. Bella Takiari-Brame from Hamilton ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    11 hours ago
  • Economic boost for Southland marae
    The Government is investing $9 million to upgrade a significant community facility in Invercargill, creating economic stimulus and jobs, Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson and Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene have announced.  The grant for Waihōpai Rūnaka Inc to make improvements to Murihiku Marae comes from the $3 billion set ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    19 hours ago
  • Celebrating the Entry Into Force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
    [Opening comments, welcome and thank you to Auckland University etc] It is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon to celebrate such an historic occasion - the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This is a moment many feared would never come, but ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Supporting disabled people to stay connected
    The Government is providing $3 million in one-off seed funding to help disabled people around New Zealand stay connected and access support in their communities, Minister for Disability Issues, Carmel Sepuloni announced today. The funding will allow disability service providers to develop digital and community-based solutions over the next two ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Voluntary saliva testing offered to quarantine workers from Monday
    Border workers in quarantine facilities will be offered voluntary daily COVID-19 saliva tests in addition to their regular weekly testing, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. This additional option will be rolled out at the Jet Park Quarantine facility in Auckland starting on Monday 25 January, and then to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Next steps in firearms buy-back
    The next steps in the Government’s ambitious firearms reform programme to include a three-month buy-back have been announced by Police Minister Poto Williams today.  “The last buy-back and amnesty was unprecedented for New Zealand and was successful in collecting 60,297 firearms, modifying a further 5,630 firearms, and collecting 299,837 prohibited ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature projects target iconic ecosystems
    Upscaling work already underway to restore two iconic ecosystems will deliver jobs and a lasting legacy, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says.  “The Jobs for Nature programme provides $1.25 billion over four years to offer employment opportunities for people whose livelihoods have been impacted by the COVID-19 recession. “Two new projects ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • New Public Housing Plan announced
    The Government has released its Public Housing Plan 2021-2024 which outlines the intention of where 8,000 additional public and transitional housing places announced in Budget 2020, will go. “The Government is committed to continuing its public house build programme at pace and scale. The extra 8,000 homes – 6000 public ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Prime Minister congratulates President Joe Biden on his inauguration
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has congratulated President Joe Biden on his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States of America. “I look forward to building a close relationship with President Biden and working with him on issues that matter to both our countries,” Jacinda Ardern said. “New Zealand ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature funding will create training and employment opportunities
    A major investment to tackle wilding pines in Mt Richmond will create jobs and help protect the area’s unique ecosystems, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says. The Mt Richmond Forest Park has unique ecosystems developed on mineral-rich geology, including taonga plant species found nowhere else in the country. “These special plant ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Pre-departure testing extended to all passengers to New Zealand
    To further protect New Zealand from COVID-19, the Government is extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “The change will come into force for all flights arriving in New Zealand after 11:59pm (NZT) on Monday ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Bay Cadets learn skills to protect environment
    Bay Conservation Cadets launched with first intake Supported with $3.5 million grant Part of $1.245b Jobs for Nature programme to accelerate recover from Covid Cadets will learn skills to protect and enhance environment Environment Minister David Parker today welcomed the first intake of cadets at the launch of the Bay ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Cook Islanders to resume travel to New Zealand
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health. “Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ COVID ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Supporting communities and landowners to grow employment opportunities
    Jobs for Nature funding is being made available to conservation groups and landowners to employ staff and contractors in a move aimed at boosting local biodiversity-focused projects, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced. It is estimated some 400-plus jobs will be created with employment opportunities in ecology, restoration, trapping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Border exception for some returning international tertiary students
    The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021. “Our top priority continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Tiwai deal gives time for managed transition
    Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New member for APEC Business Advisory Council
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The leader of each APEC economy appoints three private sector representatives to ABAC. ABAC provides advice to leaders annually on business priorities. “ABAC helps ensure that APEC’s work programme is informed by business community perspectives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Govt’s careful economic management recognised
    The Government’s prudent fiscal management and strong policy programme in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been acknowledged by the credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch has today affirmed New Zealand’s local currency rating at AA+ with a stable outlook and foreign currency rating at AA with a positive ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Additional actions to keep COVID-19 out of NZ
    The Government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 19 projects will clean up and protect waterways
    $36 million of Government funding alongside councils and others for 19 projects Investment will clean up and protect waterways and create local jobs Boots on the ground expected in Q2 of 2021 Funding part of the Jobs for Nature policy package A package of 19 projects will help clean up ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • New Zealand Government acknowledges 175th anniversary of Battle of Ruapekapeka
    The commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka represents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to reflect on the role these conflicts have had in creating our modern nation, says Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiri Allan. “The Battle at Te Ruapekapeka Pā, which took ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago