The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing. –Edmund Burke (one of Peter Goodwin’s favourite quotes.) 

Distinguished Waikanae Citizen Passes On

By Roger Childs

Peter Valentine Goodwin was born in the Waikanae Post Office, where his father was postmaster, in 1929. He died recently on 22 November while living in Kohekohe Road. In the 92 years in between he had a remarkable career principally in education and horticulture. I had the privilege of working for him for ten years when he was principal of Kapiti College.

The Goodwins at Waikanae railway station in 1930.

He was sometimes ribbed about his second name, but silenced these teasers when he explained that his uncle Valentine Hunter was a World War One hero having taken part in the New Zealand liberation of the French town of Le Quesnoy in early November 1918. Over the last few years family history became a great interest of Peter’s, and my wife was delighted to be able to help him uncover many of his forebears. One of his ancestors John Bomforth, who was living in Nelson at the time, lost an arm in the 1843 Wairau Massacre but survived to live into his eighties.

Peter and his family lived in the Horowhenua during the Depression and with five siblings times were tough. All the kids were allocated jobs and Peter quickly learned the meaning and value of hard work. His interest in horticulture dates from this time. His clothes were hand-me downs and he once quipped that his shorts were so thin if he sat on a penny he could tell whether it was heads or tails.

Distinguished service in New Zealand education

Peter was educated at Horowhenua College and he later taught English and History at the school. He was also on the staff of Tauranga Boys College and Kapiti College before joining the inspectorate. Tired of spending much of the year away from home he later applied for the principal’s job at Kapiti where he went on to serve with distinction for 18 years.

The school was rather run-down when Peter took over, however he progressively turned it into one the best colleges in the Greater Wellington area with excellent academic results, many sporting achievements, superb musical and drama productions, inter-form competitions and a formidable reputation in debating. It was also one of the first schools in New Zealand to build its own marae without any funding from the Education Department. It was paid for largely out of the cleaning budget once the decision was made to get students to clean their own classrooms!

Peter Goodwin with Kapiti College student leaders

As recognition for his work in transforming Kapiti College, Peter was awarded a coveted Woolf Fisher Fellowship which enabled him and his wife Pauline to travel extensively in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Under Peter’s guidance, Kapiti College successfully pioneered the form level dean system. The form class became a major focus for students. Every class had its own rugby ball or netball and later they were given their own table tennis table and softball gear. The Coastlands’ sports shop did very well out of the college! 

Kapiti College marae

As principal, Peter was known as a strict disciplinarian and this was instilled into the staff and pupils. Behaviour improved dramatically during his time at the helm and most students appreciated that they were at a very well-run school where their best interests were paramount. They could realize their potential and get the qualifications they would need for life beyond college. Many students commented after visiting other schools how they compared poorly with Kapiti.

Retirement and a shift of focus to horticulture

Peter had long been interested in growing things from the time he grew vegetables for the family in the Horowhenua. He set up a Horticulture Department at Kapiti College and it was natural that after retiring from the principal’s job he would pursue his love of roses, strawberries, lilies and clivias (from stock obtained at the dead of night!)  He also grew vegetables for the Home of Compassion.

(Some long-term Waikanae residents will recall being able to buy Peter’s plants and produce from the forerunner of today’s market.)

Right into his eighties he enjoyed gardening and he also did part-time work for his son Hamish who had a horse feed business near Levin. Peter enjoyed mixing with other staff there and talking to the drivers.

Family first

Peter was married to Pauline for over 60 years and they had four children. Over the years grand-children and great grand-children increased the size of the extended family. Peter and Pauline always enjoyed their company and were generous when they needed assistance. 

In the Goodwin’s lounge in Kohekohe Road there were numerous family photos and Pauline and Peter took great pride in the achievements and interests of the wider family. Sadly Pauline passed away some years ago and this was huge blow for Peter. 

Wisdom, wit and humour

One of Peter’s greatest skills was public speaking and this was regularly displayed at school assemblies and other forums. Students received regular advice on how to live successfully in a challenging world – often courtesy of Peter’s entertaining fund of quotes and stories. The quotes were sometimes shortened for effect such as Shakespeare’s observation from Othello:  Who steals my purse steals trash, but he that filches from me my good name makes me poor indeed.

It was always a pleasure to talk with Peter as he was very interested in local, national and international affairs and his observations were always perceptive and frank. He was always very interested in the views and opinions of those he spoke with.

He enjoyed the news channels on television such as CNN and he once remarked that he knew the names of more American Senators than he did Kapiti Councillors! He also loved reading and we frequently exchanged books.

He was not a technology person and did not have a computer. He was given a cell phone a few years back and once let it ring at a funeral because he didn’t know how to turn it off! He was one of many older folk who mourned the disappearance of the chequebook.

His humour was unique and original. Earlier this year he reapplied for his driver’s licence for motoring just around Waikanae. I’m not the worst driver in Waikanae but I’m pretty close to it! Despite his failing the tests the licence was granted! 

A quirky side of his nature was the sending of letters to some friends purportedly from Donald Trump or Boris Johnson!

One of his classic quips was on the occasion when he was selected to lead an Education group – It was the most inappropriate appointment since Caligula made his horse a Senator.

On his own terms

As Principal, Peter always worked hard to implement the initiatives he wanted and to make the changes he desired. However, he sought the counsel of trusted staff and knew how important it was to have his staff and students on board. Nevertheless in the end the buck stopped at his desk. 

He did know when to follow the dictates of the Department and officialdom, but would stand his ground when necessary. The Department refused to help finance the marae project but later wanted to bring visitors out to see it — Peter said “No”.  

So in terms of how Peter operated throughout his working life, it was appropriate that the two songs played at Friday’s funeral were I Walk the Line and  I Did It My Way.