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It was a privilege to sit down for a coffee with Irene Van Dyk. Irene is a woman full of energy and excitement. She is also the most capped international netballer of all time (but you all knew that). What you might not know is that she is someone incredibly proud to call Wellington home.

In preparation for The Rotary Forum (1 August 2017) we asked Irene, among other things, what her impossible dream for Wellington was?

What made you choose NZ all those years ago? In 1995 when playing for South Africa, we had a tour to New Zealand. We flew into Wellington and it was a beautiful day, you had the hills on one side and the sea on the other. Everyone was so welcoming and warm, it felt as close to heaven as you’d get. We had a BBQ that night and I thought ‘this is getting better and better.’

And... Why Wellington now? Because I believe the people in Wellington are just different. Everyone makes eye contact. Everyone says hello. On a beautiful summer's day you have people running. People walking. People biking. There is so much to do, there is not a reason for you to be inside.

“I’m very much a can do kind of person. Even if it means I go about something the wrong way and face plant. If you give it to me, I’m going to give it a go. ”

Your favourite place in Wellington? Seatoun. Because it has Scorching Bay, Worser Bay Life Saving Club, and beautiful walkways. It’s a little community. I have a beagle whose name is Hunter (although he’s not a hunter, he’s the slowest dog in the world), and you don’t get very far walking the dog before someone stops to say hello.

What do you want to see more of here? I’d like to see the minimum wage increased. Take parking wardens for example,  they work the longest hours, they get abused, some people don’t treat them with respect and they work in terrible weather. They are doing an honest day’s work and nothing deters them from doing it. These people receiving minimum wage need to be recognised for the level of work they do.

What do you want to see less of here? Drugs. I’d like to see a drug free Wellington. If we were drug free we would see a snowball effect and hopefully a reduction of many of the downstream problems that arise from drug abuse.

Has there been a situation where you have thought ‘that’s impossible’ and then overcome it? I’m very much a ‘can do’ kind of person. Even if it means I go about something the wrong way and face plant. If you give it to me, I’m going to give it a go. I’m definitely a ‘half full’ kind of girl and I’m really good at laughing at myself.

“I’d like to see a drug free Wellington.”

What gets you up in the morning? Walking my dog and… my job. I really love my job. I am a trained teacher in a former life. Now I get to coach coaches. I get to mix netball and teaching; it’s very rewarding. There is so much to get up for.

What keeps you awake at night? Not much. I’m not a worrier, my husband worries for the both of us. Although sometimes I say things and then later I will think about the implications of what I’ve said. But, if I can do something about it, I do. If I can’t then so be it. Tomorrow the sun will shine!

What is your impossible dream for Wellington? A four day work week for everyone. Realistically, 90% of the people working in Wellington, would take their ipad or iphone home and throughout the weekend and they’d check their work emails to see if things need to be done. There are lot of professional people in Wellington where a four day working week would not affect their productivity.

Do you work a four day week? Yes. For me there are a lot of other things I want to do. I’m on the Olympic Education Commission for example. Working four days a week frees up time to do other things you are passionate about.

“It was a really touching moment and reinforces how thoughtful and selfless so many Wellingtonians are.”

Three words (ish) to describe Wellington? Opportunistic, ambitious and a beautiful playground.

Do you have a recent but memorable Wellington moment you’d like to share? Yes, when we had the earthquake last year. We live at sea level and we had the tsunami warning. We went to Seatoun Heights and parked in front of a house. In contradiction to everyone else we saw a car leave their garage and began driving away. We thought where are you going buddy we are at the highest point. A little while later they drove back into their garage with an older lady they’d gone down to check on and bring to higher ground. It was a really touching moment and reinforces how thoughtful and selfless so many Wellingtonians are.

And finally, how does this compare to being interviewed by Women’s Weekly? It is so much easier.

A Beautiful Playground

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