The veteran Kāpiti and Wellington journalist Jim Webber never stopped writing, even penning his own obituary as his health failed.
So we are honoured to bring you the highlights of a life well lived:
James Hona Webber was born at Hira in Nelson in 1935, of Maori ( Ngati Toa, Ngati Raukawa, Te Ati Awa, Ngati Koata) and Scottish parents.
He was a highly experienced journalist, who became immersed in museum and community affairs from the late 1980’s.
Starting out on The Dominion
Jim began work on newspapers and magazines, initially for The Dominion.
In 1954, he went to England and became a reporter for the Stratford-Upon-Avon Herald, where he developed an interest in Shakespeare and theatre reporting.
Later as chief reporter, drama critic and motoring writer for The Coventry Standard he mixed with entertainment notables; and knew Harry Secombe and George Formby as motoring enthusiasts.
Back in NZ he returned to The Dominion and was later news editor for NZTruth.
Editor of the Hutt News
He became editor of The Hutt News in 1969, and after 10 years with the AA magazine Motor World he was managing editor of Transport News.
He edited the Waipa Leader in Te Awamutu in the mid-1990’s and reviewed books for the Waikato Times.
While living in Kawhia Jim chaired COGS Maniapoto and was secretary of the Otorohanga District Development Board.
Newsletter to Māori families
He published a regular Kāpitinewsletter for families of the nine marae In Kawhia Moana and wrote weekly news bulletins about Kawhia for Maniapoto FM Radio.
After returning to the Kāpiti District in 2003 he formed and convened the Waiorua Bay Trust which represents the Kāpiti Island Māori landowners.
He was tuakana of the Webber whanau whose grandparents, Hona and Utauta Webber, farmed on Kāpiti Island from 1909.
He and schooldays friend Diana Ferris married in Rotorua in 1996. They have adult families from previous marriages.
In Kawhia they set up the Kawhia Regional Museum Gallery and were involved in a lot of community development at a time when Kawhia’s population was growing.
Disability struck again
Jim had a disability from the 1948 polio epidemic.
He was widely travelled in Japan, North America, Italy, Scandinavia, Australia and the UK, mainly in the course opf his work as NZ’s best-known motoring writer for more than 40 years.
His polio returned as post-polio syndrome in the mid-1990’s and he gave up road testing new cars for a variety of newspapers and magazines.
“It seemed a natural transition, when the old polio returned seriously enough in the 1990’s to put me in a wheelchair, to stop testing cars and switch to taking an active role in the welfare of disabled people,” he said later.
More community roles
In recent years he was a member of Capital and Coast DHB’s Māori Partnership Board and Disability Support Advisory Group — Māori and Greater Wellington’s Accessabillty Access Group.
For several years he chaired the Kāpiti Accessability Access Group which advises the Kāpiti Coast District Council on disability matters.
He was also a board member of Q-nique, a large NHO provider of health and disability services based in the Hutt Valley.
In 2013 he advocated forming a disability advisory committee to the three merging DHBs (Wellington, Hutt Valley and Capital and Coast and he became the Kāpiti representative on it.
The Go Anywhere Trust
Another recent activity for disabled welfare was forming and convening the Go Anywhere Trust.
Its trustees in Wellington, Kāpiti and Lower Hutt are committed to seeing uniformity of access for disabled and impaired people in the Wellington region.
Jim and Diana lived in Wellington, Kawhia and most recently in Paraparaumu.
Apart from having a driving interest in improving the well-being of people with disabilities, Jim was a skilled fisherman, boat user and woodworker.
Jim rests in peace on Kāpiti Island.
(Jim Webber: 1935 — 2018)