A woman of many hats
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.