I met Chester Burrows when Pam and I went to New Plymouth for the ceremony when Peter Beck was inaugurated as the Dean of New Plymouth. A guy stood up and welcomed Peter, and spoke with great passion about the area and the responsibility to address Maori injustice issues. It was a wonderful, eloquent speech obviously by somebody with a deep knowledge and commitment to social justice. “Who is that guy?” I asked the person next to me. “That’s Chester Burrows, a local MP” said the person next to me. I replied “that was an excellent left-wing speech”, to which the person replied “yes, he is a leftie”.
I followed Chester after that and found his speeches and actions really appealed. When he left Parliament, I sent him an email congratulating him on his performance as an MP and, as I do often to people stepping down from public office that I like, offered a sympathetic ear if he ever needed one. It’s a lonely place when the phones stop ringing and nobody invites you to anything!
I was speaking to Annette King at her farewell party at Parliament and said how much I admired Chester and I hoped that he and she found a new path to focus their considerable compassion for people. Annette replied that she was pleased I liked him. When I asked how she got on with him, she replied really well, and that he is her cousin. It sure is a small world. That family has great genes.
So, I was delighted when Andrew Little, who is another MP I respect hugely, appointed Chester to chair a review of the Justice system. Here was a terrific appointment. A former cop, lawyer, and MP with amazing experiences in life, and a deep commitment to social justice, leading a review of something we have to get right. The Panel is about to hand over a report to Andrew Little; a person who will read the report and respond in a thoughtful and respectful manner. If ever there were two people who demonstrate that it is possible to be a politician, and succeed in the system, it’s these two men.
These reminiscences were brought about by reading this article in Newsroom this week https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2019/08/14/752865/chester-borrows-sense-of-justice-guides-sector-reform.
I think this quote from the article summarises why I think Chester Burrows was a perfect person to chair this review panel:
Borrows is passionate when he talks about choice, the drivers of crime, and victimisation. None of its black and white.
“People want their victims to come in certain boxes… White and pure, and attacked by strangers and through no fault of their own.”
And it’s easier to see offenders as the authors of their own misfortune. “It’s politically expedient because then we don’t have to blame ourselves