Robert Fis­cher — an ed­u­ca­tor on land and sea

Waikato Times - - Opinion - — Charles Rid­dle

Robert Fis­cher, known through­out his life as Ward at his grand­mother’s com­mand, was a mul­ti­fac­eted ed­u­ca­tor and text­book au­thor who, in a near 50-year ca­reer, never once was em­ployed by a school or ter­tiary in­sti­tute.

His was an ed­u­ca­tor’s role in life skills in just about ev­ery­thing he touched. Of­ten writ­ing his own re­sources and cur­ricu­lum, Ward worked in road safety in the Min­istry of Trans­port (later the Land Trans­port Safety Au­thor­ity), with the Chris­tian or­gan­i­sa­tion the Boys’ Bri­gade, and with the Moun­tain Safety Coun­cil.

He even man­aged some teach­ing with the Waikato Yacht Squadron.

Ward was born in Whakatane and spent his first year or so liv­ing in an exarmy tent pitched on a site pro­vided by lo­cal Ma¯ ori near the Whakatane pa­per mill where his fa­ther Robert worked.

With the birth of his sis­ter Ethel the fam­ily qual­i­fied for a State house.

Life for the young Ward fam­ily was sim­ple, but aus­tere, with few lux­u­ries.

Hol­i­days were in­vari­ably spent camp­ing at Wha­narua Bay, be­tween Opo­toki and Te Kaha, and at Mahy’s Camp­ground at Ohope.

In 1954 the fam­ily shifted to Hamilton, and Ward moved to Hamilton West Pri­mary and then South­well. Here he was an en­thu­si­as­tic cho­ris­ter in Gil­bert and Sul­li­van’s The Mikado and at St Peter’s Cathe­dral for six years.

A man of firm faith, Ward re­mained a con­gre­gant through­out his life, serv­ing on the al­tar, and as a reader and in­ter­ces­sor, be­fore be­com­ing a mem­ber of the church’s Lessor Chap­ter (a man­age­ment com­mit­tee).

Al­ways phys­i­cally ac­tive, at Hamilton Boys High Ward was a First XI hockey player, a sergeant in the Cadet Corps, a sailor on Hamilton Lake, a tram­per with the Boys Bri­gade (start­ing an­other life­long as­so­ci­a­tion), and in­volved in bushcraft and camp­ing with the YMCA.

He would pass on all this learn­ing through­out his life.

Af­ter Boys High Ward trained as a cab­i­net maker and joiner with the Min­istry of Works, help­ing in the con­struc­tion of the NZBC TV stu­dios, the agri­cul­tural field ser­vice build­ing at Ruakura, and the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

In the late 60s he was sec­onded to Raro­tonga to help build and fit out the new air­port control tower and post of­fice to en­cour­age tourism.

Yacht­ing was a life­long pas­sion for Ward, begin­ning with P-class, moth, and trailer-sail­ers with the Waikato yacht squadron be­fore he fi­nally took on his beloved Town­son sloop Bur­gundy Rose. He sailed the Hau­raki Gulf and Bay of Is­lands and en­joyed stay­ing at iso­lated bays, swim­ming and sam­pling the oc­ca­sional wine af­ter din­ner. It was this love of sail that put him in a par­tic­u­larly tight spot. Af­ter his sec­ond stint in Raro­tonga, by way of a change, he signed on as crew on a 12-me­tre sloop, the Ma­iawa, bound for Auck­land.

The three-man crew trav­elled via Raoul Is­land in the Ker­madecs be­fore they were de-masted in a storm. Brother Lau­rie re­called Ward ad­mit­ting the ex­pe­ri­ence was a ter­ri­fy­ing one.

‘‘He de­scribed 40-foot waves crash­ing down, [the yacht] plung­ing into troughs, ris­ing to the top, and surf­ing down again trail­ing their bro­ken mast be­hind them.’’

On his re­turn Ward re­joined the Min­istry of Works car­pen­try team work­ing on the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture sheep sta­tion site at Whatawhata be­fore, in mid-1970, he de­cided to change tack and ap­ply for a teach­ing job with the then Min­istry of Trans­port (MoT) as a uni­formed Traf­fic Ed­u­ca­tion Of­fi­cer. He rose through the ranks and be­come Re­gional Chief Traf­fic Safety Ed­u­ca­tion Of­fi­cer for the Greater Waikato area.

Many will re­call Ward’s safety chant of ‘‘stop, look, and lis­ten’’ when, as MoT ra­dio spokesper­son, he broad­cast a reg­u­lar Mon­day morn­ing ed­u­ca­tion slot.

Ward also set up school safety film pre­sen­ta­tions, us­ing wrecked cars, school chil­dren, and lots of tomato sauce. These films were dis­trib­uted through­out New Zealand.

In 1974 he was awarded the Gover­nor Gen­eral’s Na­tional Achieve­ment Award for ex­cep­tional ser­vice in the cause of driver ed­u­ca­tion and traf­fic safety.

The same year Ward, a keen mo­tor­cy­clist, was in­stru­men­tal in es­tab­lish­ing the orig­i­nal not-for-profit com­mu­nity run Hamilton Mo­tor­cy­cle Rid­ing School – kick­ing off 40 years of on­go­ing in­ter­est in mo­tor­cy­cle train­ing, par­tic­u­larly with young peo­ple.

Af­ter the MoT’s merger with the po­lice in 1992, Ward was ap­pointed dis­trict man­ager for Land Trans­port tasked with man­ag­ing the in­au­gu­ral de­vel­op­ment of a core land trans­port group which later be­came the Land Trans­port Safety Au­thor­ity. In 1994 he wrote a se­ries of Ma¯ ori Lan­guage road safety read­ers which were of­fi­cially launched at the Kirikiriroa Marae by Dame Te Atairangikahu. Copies were sub­se­quently dis­trib­uted to all Ko­hanga Reo units, bilin­gual Kura Ma¯ ori, and Kura Kau­papa through­out the coun­try.

As well, he wrote and pub­lished the Learn­ing Sys­tem for Mo­tor­cy­cle In­struc­tors for the MoT.

Fol­low­ing 34 con­tin­u­ous years with cen­tral gov­ern­ment agen­cies Ward formed his own com­pany fo­cused on road safety ed­u­ca­tion and also set up the Hamilton Mo­tor­cy­cle Rid­ing School.

He was ac­tively in­volved in the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion’s Com­mu­nity Ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme and taught com­mu­nity ed­u­ca­tion at Melville, Fraser, Fair­field, Pu­taruru, Mor­rinsville and Toko­roa high schools for 15 years.

In amongst all of this Ward main­tained a sig­nif­i­cant vol­un­tary com­mu­nity ser­vice, par­tic­u­larly through his 52-year con­tin­u­ous in­volve­ment with the Boys’ Bri­gade.

He first joined the Boys’ Bri­gade as a boy in the 1st Hamilton Bri­gade at St An­drews church in 1958. In 1964 he was ap­pointed an of­fi­cer, a po­si­tion he held for 13 years. In the Cook Is­lands he as­sisted with the 1st Avarua Boys’ Bri­gade in Raro­tonga. Sub­se­quently he was in­volved with the 35th Welling­ton Com­pany and in 1971 he started the 11th Welling­ton Com­pany.

On his re­turn to Hamilton in 1972 he re-joined the 1st Hamilton Com­pany be­fore start­ing the 4th Hamilton Com­pany in Fair­field as Cap­tain, a po­si­tion he held for 21 years. He was serv­ing as Cap­tain of the 7th Hamilton Com­pany at the time of his death.

As well, he served as the Waikato Bat­tal­ion Pres­i­dent for 17 years and in 2005 was the prime mover in the es­tab­lish­ment of the Waikato Boys’ Bri­gade Char­i­ta­ble Trust. He spent 13 years on the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive, three of them as vice-pres­i­dent, and rep­re­sented the or­gan­i­sa­tion at in­ter­na­tional level.

As part of his Boys’ Bri­gade role, he was ap­pointed rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the Moun­tain Safety Coun­cil’s Waikato Com­mit­tee, where he was an in­struc­tor in both bush and moun­tain craft.

In 1995 he was sworn in as a Jus­tice of the Peace.

Ward was pre­sented with the Mem­ber of New Zealand Or­der of Merit Medal by Dame Patsy Reddy in 2017.

Ward loved travel. He did a cruise to the Antarc­tic and Falk­land Is­lands but was too ill to man­age the booked-and­paid-for cruise around Aus­tralia in Novem­ber this year.

Ward was the much-loved son of the late Robert and Claire Fis­cher; brother and brother-in-law of Ethel and Stephen Ca­ley, and Lau­rie and Libby Fis­cher; un­cle of Leonard and Dav­ina, Joanne and Bryan, Natalie, Dan and Deb­bie, Richard and Ka­rina, and Nic and Amelia; grea­tun­cle of all his nieces and neph­ews. A Life Story tells of a New Zealan­der who helped to shape the Waikato com­mu­nity. If you know of some­one whose life story should be told, please email Charles.rid­[email protected]­


Ward Fis­cher used his years of ex­pe­ri­ence road safety ed­u­ca­tion in found­ing the Hamilton Mo­tor­cy­cle Rid­ing School.

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