‘Grand­fa­ther’ of the Queen Char­lotte Track

The Southland Times - - Obituaries - Rod Eatwell Landowner/con­ser­va­tion­ist b 1928 d Novem­ber 28, 2018

Rod Eatwell loved chat­ting to peo­ple. Even at the age of 90, he spent most of his time mo­sey­ing up and down the Queen Char­lotte Track with his walk­ing stick.

Eatwell, who died in a car crash be­tween Blen­heim and Pic­ton, ded­i­cated three decades to the Marl­bor­ough Sounds track, and was due to re­ceive a Queen’s Ser­vice Medal in the up­com­ing New Year Hon­ours. Gover­nor-Gen­eral Dame Patsy Reddy agreed to en­act it early so the award could be an­nounced at his fu­neral in Blen­heim on Tues­day.

Eatwell, an owner of land on the track, is con­sid­ered the ‘‘grand­fa­ther’’ of the Kenepuru Walk­way, which later be­came part of the Queen Char­lotte Track. Son John said his fa­ther could of­ten be seen rid­ing an old lawn­mower, main­tain­ing the track for free.

Just last month, and with a bro­ken hip, Eatwell fi­nally fin­ished build­ing a toi­let block on the track, some­thing he was de­ter­mined to do. ‘‘He was cer­tainly fully en­gaged in life. He took life by the horns,’’ his son said.

He had ac­cepted the QSM award about a month be­fore his death. ‘‘He was very ex­cited about it, he was very pleased.

‘‘We’re very pleased for him that he knew about it, and had recognition for all his ef­forts. As a fam­ily, we’re al­ways proud of all the things he did, but to get ex­ter­nal recognition is also fan­tas­tic.’’

Eatwell loved to yarn with walk­ers as they passed through his prop­erty. He was a unique and some­times fiery char­ac­ter, whose ser­vice for the com­mu­nity was driven by a gen­uine love of peo­ple.

As one of the largest pri­vate landown­ers on the Queen Char­lotte Track, he was cred­ited with mak­ing it a re­al­ity.

He was al­ways clear­ing view­ing points for track users, putting benches and signs up on the track, his son said.

He owned mo­tels in Ren­wick for 25 years, and ran the an­nual ‘‘old peo­ple’s day’’, in which peo­ple would come to the mo­tel and have scones and re­lax on the lawn.

He was also in­volved with young peo­ple, run­ning Scouts and youth groups and tal­ent quests.

‘‘He was al­ways busy, al­ways ac­tive. He’s 90 and had trou­ble get­ting around, but he still wanted to do things.’’

He was pas­sion­ate about lo­cal democ­racy and en­sur­ing peo­ple’s voices were heard, and was a reg­u­lar let­ter-writer to the Marl­bor­ough Ex­press. ‘‘He lob­bied hard when he didn’t think peo­ple were be­ing in­volved or heard.’’

Queen Char­lotte Track chair­man Rob Burn said Eatwell’s death was a big loss, though he said he had ‘‘had a few lives’’ in the past.

He could have died on the day he drove his Land Rover 10 me­tres over a bank, crawled out, had a heart at­tack, cleaned the toi­lets, and then walked home and told his wife to call the am­bu­lance, Burn said.

Or the time when he and his mates were at the Portage Re­sort Ho­tel, the rail­ing gave way and they fell sev­eral me­tres to the pave­ment be­low. He had also had a few close calls on his quad bike.

‘‘He’s been the landowner ar­guably with the great­est vi­sion of the track. When fund­ing failed, he kept on with it and took some of the other landown­ers along with him.

‘‘It was a priv­i­lege to go there in the last few years and have a cup of tea and sit on his porch with him and just talk about how he helped build the track and how he loved the land out there.’’ Lynda Scott-Kelly, a fel­low pri­vate landowner along the track and for­mer Kaiko¯ ura MP, said the track meant a huge amount to Eatwell. ‘‘He was very keen on the walk­ers, not so keen on the bik­ers.

‘‘He typ­i­fied how we all feel so pas­sion­ately about the land, the care of that land, and the care of it for the fu­ture.’’

He was a real char­ac­ter, a real in­di­vid­ual, she said. He set up signs to an ‘‘Eatwell’s look­out’’, and en­cour­aged peo­ple to go off the track to see the in­cred­i­ble views.

‘‘Most peo­ple are amazed the way the Queen Char­lotte Track works as a part­ner­ship, and then they get to meet Rod, it adds such a di­men­sion.’’

Gary Benner, who was writ­ing a fam­ily his­tory of the Eatwell fam­ily, said:

‘‘It is a sad and ironic twist that his grand­mother Jessie Eatwell suf­fered a sim­i­lar fate, but un­der even more tragic cir­cum­stances.

‘‘She has just de­liv­ered her son to the ship that would take him into ser­vice in World War I as part of the Ex­pe­di­tionary Force, when her horse and buggy col­lided with an­other ve­hi­cle.’’

Eatwell was the hus­band of the late Kath and Glen; fa­ther and fa­ther-in-law of Mary and Stephen But­ler, Phoebe Giles, Ruth Par­sons, and John and Gabrielle Eatwell; grand­fa­ther and great-grand­fa­ther of Danny, Jo, Kelvin, Stephen, Rachel, Keith, Kath­leen, Con­nor, Pa­nia, Fer­gus, Shaila, Cay­den, Henry, Se­bas­tian, and Cor­ban.


Rod Eatwell put signs and pic­nic ta­bles along the Queen Char­lotte Track, and had just fin­ished build­ing a toi­let block when he died aged 90.

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