By DAVID HILL
Tony Hall says the “greatest gift you can give is your time”.
The North Canterbury man was made a Companion of the New Zealander Order of Merit (CNZM) for his services to education and sport, which has included helping to establish the New Zealand Community Colleges, becoming Lincoln University chancellor and an Olympic Games selector.
Mr Hall achieved this despite having no background in education and being just an average, keen sportsperson.
After finishing school he enrolled at Auckland University “for a wee while” before going farming – “it didn’t like me and I didn’t like it.”
Instead he embarked on a career in farming and business, before seeing a need for a community response to rising unemployment in Rangiora in the early 1980s.
He help to establish the Rangiora Enterprise Trust which founded the Rangiora Academy to support young people who did not fit into the usual secondary school environment or needed mentoring.
It has evolved into the New Zealand Community Colleges with six campuses throughout the South Island.
Mr Hall’s work with the community colleges saw him appointed to the Lincoln University council in 2004, later being made a pro-chancellor in 2011 at a time when the university was dealing with “dislocation and rebuilding” after the September 2010 earthquake.
He served 13 months as chancellor from April 2016 until he stepped down last month and has also served four years on the University of Canterbury council.
“The thing about Lincoln is that it is very specialised in the primary production sector, but if you look at the Government’s growth agenda, it fits in with where we are heading as a country.
“There are a number of challenges they are working with such as environmental impacts and how to mitigate them – how do we increase production within environmental constraints?”
Given the rapid changes in the primary sector, Mr Hall suggests using the term “food production” rather than “agriculture” as the sector works to make it a more attractive career option to urban students.
“Food is the biggest game in town – food, housing and the environment are all key issues, they are for life.”
“Traditionally at schools, when a young person doesn’t fit in they go into agriculture, but farming now is very sophisticated with science and managing the environment.”
Mr Hall’s sporting connections began with supporting his late wife Gilly, who was involved in organising disabled skiing, which led to a 35 year involvement with disabled sport and ultimately New Zealand paralympic teams.
He chaired the North Canterbury Sport and Recreation Trust from 2006 to 2011, has worked on the Coast to Coast and was recruited to the Sport Canterbury Trust in 2011 to “promote sport in a post-earthquake environment”.
He joined the New Zealand Olympic Committee as a board member and selector for Olympic and Commonwealth Games teams in 2012.
Mr Hall was previously made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in 2007.