A woman of many hats

Waitaki Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

MARY-JO TO­HILL

She’s a fire­fighter, farmer, mother and MP’s wife.

Jude Pat­ter­son wears many hats. Clutha District peo­ple got to know her first in a shiny hel­met when she joined the Lawrence vol­un­teer fire bri­gade eight years ago and even­tu­ally be­came sta­tion of­fi­cer.

When ru­ral and ur­ban bri­gades amal­ga­mated last year she be­came the vol­un­tary women’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Fire and Emer­gency New Zealand (FENZ). She is now part of Women in Fire and Emer­gency New Zealand - WFENZ, for area 24, which cov­ers Oa­maru to Gore.

The 42-year-old is also head­ing up to Auck­land on May 19 for the an­nual Sky Tower Stair Chal­lenge, for the fifth time.

‘‘I re­ally en­joy the af­ter­func­tion and see­ing where the money goes - that’s my favourite part of the event, that we’re rais­ing funds for leukemia and blood can­cer.’’

In the past three years, the event has raised more than $1 mil­lion be­cause of the ef­forts of bri­gades around the coun­try. The fundrais­ing tar­get for 2018 is $950,000. About 950 fire­fight­ers will be tak­ing part.

It has been a tricky build-up this year for the Lawrence farmer and mother of two daugh­ters, be­cause she hasn’t had her usual train­ing to tackle those 51 flights of stairs and 1,103 steps.

Life changed for the for­mer Dunedin-based In­ver­may Agri­cul­tural Cen­tre chem­i­cal tech­ni­cian when hus­band Mark Pat­ter­son be­came NZ First MP in Septem­ber.

‘‘He’s al­ways fol­lowed pol­i­tics, al­ways wanted to be a politi­cian, and he’s been fo­cused on that for years.’’

So it was no sur­prise to her that he be­came one.

How­ever, if life was a balanc­ing act be­fore the elec­tion, it’s a jug­gling act now to keep life and fam­ily on track. ‘‘I’m a list per­son - I write things down, or store them in the phone.’’

When mark­ing In­ter­na­tional Fire­fight­ers Day with a visit to Lawrence Area School on Fri­day, where their two daugh­ters Amelia, 10, and Annabelle, 9, at­tend, Mark Pat­ter­son made men­tion of his wife’s in­stant ac­tion mode when the fire siren sounds.

He was at the school be­cause FENZ asked MPs around the coun­try to meet with a bri­gade within their elec­torate, to get across key winter fire safety mes­sages.

‘‘She can be cook­ing tea, work­ing on the farm or sit­ting on the couch watch­ing telly, then it’s just a dif­fer­ent world that she goes to, be­cause we know when that siren goes off, some­one is in dan­ger.’’

With her hus­band now clock­ing up air miles between Dunedin and Welling­ton on week­days, at­tend­ing a call-out can be a chal­lenge.

How­ever, she has babysit­ting friends on standby.

Pat­ter­son rel­ishes her role, and the lead­er­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties life in Lawrence has given her; a woman who ended up be­ing born and brought up in New Zealand be­cause her Cen­tral Amer­i­can mother from Belize (for­merly Bri­tish Hon­duras) and her Bri­tish fa­ther from Sur­rey got turned back to our shores when a storm stopped their ship reach­ing Aus­tralia where they were headed.

‘‘They ended up in the rolling hills of Waik­ouaiti.’’

The Pat­ter­sons moved to south Otago 10 years ago af­ter a stint on a dairy farm at Oa­maru.

When pos­si­ble, usu­ally in school hol­i­days, she ex­changes gum­boots and hel­met for heels and a hairdo, and gets an in­sight into her hus­band’s world at Par­lia­ment.

‘‘The first time was a sur­real experience. It is com­pletely dif­fer­ent world. You’re walk­ing down a cor­ri­dor and you see peo­ple you’ve seen on TV. But they’re just nor­mal peo­ple do­ing what’s for them a nor­mal day’s work.’’

She’s al­ways happy to re­turn home with her girls to Lawrence.

‘‘You can’t beat a com­mu­nity like this.’’

Vol­un­teer fire­fighter Jude Pat­ter­son.

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