John Bird Barrister
My Life as a Barrister
We were privileged to hear from John Burn (LLB), an ex St Andrews lad, who spent three terms on the CCC specialising in finance and policy.  He was also Deputy Chairman on the Canterbury International Airport.
Working as a barrister only started in the 60s. Mahon was the first one to set up and got all the big firm work so I decided instead to look after the small firms who were delighted to have me.
In terms of working with the CCC the main mistake I made was I did this for free. They now get up to $150,000 a year. Back then, though, we ran the council which I loved doing for nine years.
I was then offered a position with Hunt and Hunt in Sydney as they wanted a commercial litigator. I eventually decided to go for a year and only returned to Christchurch 6 years later.
My topic today is practice at the bar. New South Wales follows the English system which means you cannot be both a solicitor and a barrister. The good thing about this is that solicitors have to do all the work whereas barristers simply read briefs so it is much easier.
Sydney has 25,000 barristers who all specialised in a main area. Hunt and Hunt worked in the injury issues field for individuals. I was lucky to be put with a group covering personal injury e.g. someone who might have put their hands into a machine and being badly injured.
I was also privileged to go on a New South Wales Crown panel which covered asbestos related cases. In New Zealand you can't sue for personal injury as this is covered by ACC.  Most of the cases I dealt with settled but the more complex ones often went to trial.
My toughest cases involved bedside clients who, once diagnosed, often died within 6 months. Everyone, regardless of the situation, was very sympathetic with these clients who were very understanding of us which we were humbled by.
In Australia it was not unusual for claims to be settled for $2 Million. In New Zealand the same clients would get medical costs and some weekly support. So the ACC system, while supportive in some ways, can also mean significant financial hardship for affected clients.
When I first moved to Sydney I experienced the result of the cricket underarm event on the first Saturday I was there. When my boys attended school they were approached by students who apologized for what happened.
When barristers start up, they often need to take any work they can get. I was lucky and got into work that I enjoyed quickly.  There was lots of camaraderie but one quirk involved never shaking hands which was done in the past to show that we did not have a weapon on us.  We all had a lot of fun and, while we battled in Court, we never fought personally.
All Sydney cases on personal injury are on a “no win no fee" basis. You typically earn a percentage of these while in New Zealand you get a lot less.  Briefs are frequently passed from one person to another. This can work and in one situation I only held a brief for a short time and still got a sizable fee.
After I retired I took a position investigating fraud and impropriety for politicians. We were fairly busy! It was a phone job for six months but eventually I returned to the bar.
In recent times I have been fighting the development of the Merivale mall. A colleague and I attended a meeting regarding this and it goes to a hearing shortly. A decision is expected in August.
In closing John shared with a smile that he originally came home after his wife died to see his old friends but now spends much of his time trying to avoid them.
We thanked John for sharing his interesting experiences and thoughts in recent years and wished him well in his future endeavours.
Goony Bird
A ‘Gooney Bird’ Flapping over BOP
Papanui Rotary President Keith Mitchell in the DC-3 Cockpit
It is as summer as the sound of cicadas, as summer as the wash of another lazy wave on the Tay Street Beach.
This summer sound is the rumble of ZK-AWP - one gracious old lady, a DC-3 which at weekends, trundles across the Bay of Plenty skyline at 500 metres (1,500 feet), her cabin chocka with tourists, plane spotters and nostalgia.
She’s one old girl decked out in all her flash retro NAC finery and being flown by an old dog.  “They always ask if this plane is safe,” says Keith Mitchell.
Then they look at me, an old pilot of 76, and think: ‘Oh that’s good, he’s obviously been round the block a few times. He knows what he’s doing’.” 
The punters probably wouldn’t appreciate some young buck in the cockpit. It needs an old man to fly an old aeroplane.
Most summer weekends, Keith Mitchell throws on a crisp white shirt with the striped epaulettes of a pilot and travels from home in Christchurch to Tauranga for an assignation with the other woman in his life – the Air Chatham DC-3.
“I certainly have a special relationship with this aircraft.”  He talks to her – ‘come on ol’ girl’ sort of thing. “And I pat her.” He doesn’t love her like he would his wife.  “But there’s certainly an attachment and much more than there would be for a modern aircraft.”
The love affair with the DC-3 is a global phenomenon. “It was September 17, 1935, when the DC-3 first went into service. And there’s nothing on land, rail, sea or in the air that can match it.”
In another 15 years the DC-3 will have been working commercially for 100 years. They are easy to love and respect.
And ZK-AWP is living, flying proof – still turning an honest buck flying fanciers from Tauranga to Katikati and Waihi Beach, round Mauao and then over the backyards of Te Puke.
McDonnell Douglas built 16,000 DC-3s and they must be looking down thinking they got that one right.  And they might also be looking down in awe at Keith Mitchell.
“Maybe,” laughs the pilot. “An old bloke in an old aeroplane?”
A DC-3 is low-spec, no frills flying.  “No auto-pilot so you are committed to flying it. Hands on flying and you don’t get many hands on flying today. Everything is automated.”
It’s 9.30am on a Saturday morning and tucked in behind Classic Flyers Museum, ZK-AWP is being shaken from its slumber. Those big 14-cylinder Pratt and Whitney radial piston engines on this big badass plane are winding up and then explode into life.
There’s smoke, lots of it. Thick clouds of oil laden smoke.
“If you wear labelled clothes, then DC-3s aren’t for you,” says Keith Mitchell. “There’s lots of oil. You get decked out.”  He means you can get caught with your pants down when aviation oil, lots of it, spatters, sprays or drips unexpectedly. It’s a game DC-3s like to play.
The DC-3 has many nicknames – Gooney Bird or albatross, Dumbo, Spooky, Puff the Magic Dragon – all names pointing to the aircraft’s reputation for reliability, versatility and power. And its timelessness would inevitably lead to verse and songs being written.
“They patched her up with masking tape, paper clips and string, and still she flies, she never dies, The Methuselah with wings.”
And if you ask a DC-3 to do something, Keith says it will do its best ever.  “I can assure you of that.”  And never a scary moment.  “Blown a few cylinders, but the radial just keeps going. And you are too busy getting back on the ground to worry about it.” 
It’s a magical experience for Keith Mitchell when the ZK-AWP moseys down the runway and eases into the air. “Sometimes people don’t even know they have left the ground. Then there’s that wonderful sense of freedom.”
With DC-3s there is a delicious amalgam of noise and nostalgia.
“I have flown them extensively in Australia and New Zealand. And you often meet people who heard the radial engine, thought it might have been a DC-3 and immediately drove to the airport to see.”
There is a lot of noise for an aircraft that’s trundles along at just 300 km/h.  And everyone, it seems everyone, has a story about a DC-3.  “They got proposed to on a DC-3, they got engaged on a DC-3.”
And then a bloke corners Keith Mitchell and tells him his father was piloting a DC-3 in 1945 when it collided with a Lockheed.
“The DC-3 lost a wing and crashed but the pilot survived and lived until he was 102.”
Great DC-3 stories. The aviation icon was also a war hero. “It helped win WW2 – not as a fighting machine but as a workhorse. But it did transform into warhorse in Vietnam. They armed them with Gatling guns to counteract the Vietcong moving at night through the jungles. Obliterated them.”
But on ZK-AWP there’s nothing more aggressive than a running commentary. Although it did serve in the RNZAF before turning out for NAC from 1953 to the late 1960s. Flash people got dressed up to travel in AWP. Later it was a top-dresser, breaking in some of New Zealand’s toughest farmland, some more commercial work and then to Tonga.
“It ended up mothballed in a hangar and when Air Chatham’s got the chance to bring it home, they jumped. “We spent a year getting it going. But I wanted to bring it home because unlike other DC-3s it had New Zealand history.”  And AWP rumbles with a New Zealand accent.  “So it had to come home.”
Keith Mitchell has the unerring knack of tweaking the rudder to bring any talk of himself back to ZK-AWP.  “She makes people cry.”  He is referring to the 1948 Berlin airlift when the DC-3 transported in more than 6000 tons of supplies to the blockaded West Berlin each day. 
Sons and daughters of West Berliners involved in the blockade would later climb into Keith’s DC-3 and cry.  “They would tell us the DC-3 won the war, that it helped them survive through dark days.”
Keith Mitchell scratches his chin thoughtfully.  “You know, I treat it as a privilege to fly the DC-3.”  And the DC-3 probably feels the same about Keith Mitchell.
Sound System Training
We need to get the best out of the sound system for the benefit of all our members and Gary Denhard has kindly agreed to train some members on the use of our sound system.
Gary will be approaching some members regarding the training which has the full support of the President and Board. 
If you would like to be trained please feel free to talk to Gary or President Keith. 
Papanui Rotary in Action!
A number of keen members turned out last Saturday to help long term active member Larry Skiba and as his family works towards finally getting back into their repaired house.
Hard at work …
… before and after shot from Gary.
What a great example of the comradery and support we are willing to give to both the wider community and each other as Rotarians.
Thought for the week …
“The best way to stay healthy is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like and do things you’d prefer not to.”
Upcoming Events you are welcome to attend
Waitangi Day Meeting
Feb 06, 2020
5:55 PM – 7:45 PM
Coffee Morning at Reality Bites Cafe (10am)
Reality Bites Cafe
Feb 07, 2020 10:00 AM
Richard Archbold on the International Convention C
The Papanui
Feb 13, 2020
5:55 PM – 7:45 PM
Jeff Smith Papanui High School principal speaks
The Papanui
Feb 20, 2020
5:55 PM – 7:30 PM
Hon. Amy Adams - My life in politics
The Papanui
Feb 27, 2020
5:55 PM – 7:45 PM
View entire list
Meeting Responsibilities
Duty Roster 6th February 2020
Forrest, Helen
Speakers Host
Van Beek, Verdi
Vote of Thanks
Geerlofs, Janice
Visitors Host
Spicer, Anne
Thomson, Rob
Meeting Setup
McMurtrie, Denis
Banner Setup & Room Tidyup
Sedgley, Ron
Duty Roster 13th February 2020
Digby, Neville
Speakers Host
McFadden, Grant
Vote of Thanks
Geerlofs, Arie
Visitors Host
Colley, Cheryl
Wright, Max
Meeting Setup
McMurtrie, Denis
Banner setup & Room Tidyup
Sedgley, Ron
Duty Roster 20th February 2020
Taylor, Tony
Speakers Host
McMurtrie, Denis
Vote of Thanks
Nicholl, Rob
Visitors Host
Batty, Stuart
Bates, Mandi
Meeting Setup
McMurtrie, Denis
Banner Setup & Room Tidyup
Sedgley, Ron
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