By JOHN EDGAR
July 2012 ($39.99 RRP, Hodder Moa)
'Every Aucklander of a certain age knows that we should have listened to Mayor Robbie back in the 1970s' – Labour Party MP Phil Twyford
But who was Mayor Robbie? And why is he still relevant today?
Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, Auckland's longest serving mayor, was a contradiction — a man who cared for his fellow citizens sometimes more than for his own family; an environmentalist who made his money as a capitalist manufacturer; and a trail-blazing green politician who advocated rapid rail but loved luxury cars.
Yet the paradox worked. Mayor Robbie, as he was affectionately known, became a remarkable figure, stroppily out of step with his political peers. Where they were largely men (and women) of their own time, or in some cases harked back to some recent past, he was a reformer and a progressive.
Growing up as a working-class Jewish boy in Sheffield, Dove-Myer never imagined his life would follow such an unusual path. But he was a natural political campaigner and soon Aucklanders became familiar with this small man with the big voice and even bigger ego. So, associated with a host of local and national causes, he became Auckland's most recognisable spokesperson.
Mayor Robbie joined political causes and challenged convention. He fought against French nuclear testing and environmental pollution; and he fought for better waste water treatment processes and an integrated Auckland transport system and city.
His personal life was just as colourful as his political career and, for the times, often shocking. Four wives, one 20 years his junior, many girlfriends and a very public divorce during one of his terms meant he was never far from the headlines.
Urban Legend is the first book to take an in-depth look at this contradictory character, examining his extraordinary professional career as well as his life outside the spotlight. It reveals the highs and lows of one of the most charismatic politicians in New Zealand history, whose contribution not only affected the future of Auckland, but the future of New Zealand.
'Make bold plans, small plans have no power to fire the imagination.' — Sir Dove-Myer Robinson
About John Edgar
In 1982 searching for an interesting figure to be the subject of his PhD in political history, John Edgar asked Sir Dove-Myer Robinson if he would like to be involved. The former Auckland City mayor leapt at the opportunity to recount his life and many visits and interviews followed in the next seven years until Sir Dove-Myer's death in 1989. Even in the downtime from interviewing Robinson on tape, some pithy remarks about issues and personalities of the time always came the author's way. John Edgar found Robinson to be a refreshingly candid interviewee as he did many of Robinson's political friends and foe alike. While his doctorate was awarded in 1988, the longer project of writing a full biography has followed Dr Edgar in his various work as a teacher, a barrister, a law lecturer and now in his present role heading the Waitakere office of the Public Defence Service. Thirty years after their introduction, Dr Edgar has finally completed his account of Robinson's life story.
'There are four charismatic politicians in our history. There is Richard John Seddon, Michael Joseph Savage, Robert David Muldoon and Dove-Myer Robinson. And while the others had party structures behind them, and they built on the successes of other men, Robbie seems to me to owe nothing to anyone but himself, he's a unique phenomenon.' — Professor John Roberts (quote used in DMR's 1983 election pamphlet)