Kevin came to Parliament in 2008 directly from his work as the Chief Executive of the West Coast District Health Board. He was previously Executive Director of the NZ AIDS Foundation and has extensive experience in the health sector. For example, he was a member of the National Health Committee (2001-05) and Chair of the NZ Public Health Advisory Committee (2002-04). He also has a background in business.
Kevin has a long history of engagement and advocacy around the Treaty of Waitangi, conservation, including the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Board, and a wide range of cycling issues and gay rights.
His University training has been in physics, mathematics, Scandinavian Studies and post-graduate study in Public Health.
He lives on the West Coast near Greymouth with his partner.
If not me, then who? If not now, then when? The line is a kind of mantra for first-term Green MP Kevin Hague. Or perhaps it’s a kind of justification — a gentle reassurance that choosing a life consumed by the fight for social justice and the pressures of senior civil service was not really a choice after all, but rather a calling he couldn’t refuse.
Date of birth: 18 March 1960
Family: Partner Ian, son Thomas (22)
Hobbies: Cycling (mountain biking and touring), endurance sport, mystery novels
Favourite NZ animal or bird:Tui
Favourite movie: Zoolander
Favourite novel: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Music I play on Saturday mornings:Miles Davis, Massive Attack, the Verve
My never-fail recipe: Tofu and vege fried rice
Greatest sporting achievement:Making it to the top of Half Dome (a mountain) in Yosemite National Park. I dedicated my achievement, the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done, to my sister, who had recently died from cancer
Year entered Parliament: 2008
Green Spokesperson for: Conservation, Health & Wellbeing, ACC, Community Economic Development, Rural Affairs, Cycling and Active Transport, Rainbow Issues
First political action: Formed an ‘anti-pollution’ club at my school, aged 12
Most embarrassing political moment: Arrested at an anti-sexism demo at a Miss NZ Pageant, I ended up in a paddy wagon with a group of women who wouldn’t speak to me — they were all lesbian separatists
Proudest political moment: The night Fran Wilde’s Homosexual Law Reform Bill passed
Hero: Captain Planet
Kevin Hague’s first day at Hamilton Boys’ High School isn’t his fondest memory. Having recently emigrated with his family to escape a council-flat life in Farnborough, England, Kevin recalls turning up in his English school uniform only to be mercilessly taunted by his new peers. Kids can be so cruel!
“I went straight home and demanded a new uniform,” he says. “We didn’t have a lot of money but I got the uniform and in my desire to fit in pretty much bankrupted the family.”
Sitting in his MP’s office in Wellington it’s hard to see the Kevin Hague of today being overly worried about fitting in. A powerful intellect and a supremely efficient administrator, Kevin is also, well, just Kevin.
“My family wasn’t overly political but my parents’ concept of fairness always struck a chord with me,” he says. “I was also a keen birdwatcher as a kid and interested in all things nature, so I was perhaps destined to play a role in environmental protection at some stage.”
With high school behind him, Kevin headed to Auckland University where he embarked on undergraduate studies in mathematics and physics. He says his grades were good in the first year, but declined rather rapidly after that.
The fervour of late 1970s student politics quickly drew him in and Kevin found himself at the epicentre of the Auckland University Students Association (AUSA).
“I became President in 1980 and that was a key moment for me,” he recalls. “Everything about New Zealand was becoming politicised at this time — Bastion Point, the Haka Party and, of course, the Springbok tour were all major issues.”
Between late 1980 and early 1981, Kevin recalls the anti-tour movement growing from a twenty-strong picket of a NZ Rugby Union meeting to 200,000 people marching on the streets of Auckland. “Something flicked the switch and you simply had to be involved,” he says.
“Being an MP is the best job in the world; it’s rare to be a complete learner as an adult.”
While 1981 would be the mainstream zenith of the anti-apartheid movement, Kevin’s work on the issue continued unabated. Apart from having a few court cases to deal with (“I was arrested many times”), Kevin also saw that the crucial link between New Zealand and South Africa was in rugby and was ultimately instrumental in stopping the 1985 All Blacks’ tour of the Republic.
At the same time, many Māori were challenging Pākehā to confront racism right here in New Zealand, and Kevin took up that challenge, co-founding Pākehā Treaty Action.
“I am still active in Treaty issues but the genesis for my early involvement was perhaps due to my experience as an outsider,” he says. “I found it very helpful that, because I was an immigrant, I was able to see it from the outside.”
Even while he was heavily involved in anti-apartheid and Treaty education movements, Kevin was fighting another crucial battle – one with many more personal connotations.
“As a gay man, there was an imperative to tackle injustices that affected me directly too and throughout the late 1970s and 1980s we fought for the decriminalisation of homosexuality,” he says.
Kevin can still remember listening on the radio as George Gair cast the deciding vote that would see Fran Wilde’s Law Reform Bill passed by the House in 1986.
“I am eternally grateful to Fran Wilde and others for being brave during the passage of that Bill, but of course it took many more years of work (until 1993) before we saw adequate human rights protection for homosexual New Zealanders passed into legislation.”
By the late 1980s Kevin was working in the area of human rights with the AIDS Foundation and would ultimately become the organisation’s Executive Director. His work there would lead him into a career in health where he became a senior manager and respected figure.
After a decade on Auckland’s Waiheke Island (where his passion for literature also manifested itself in ownership of the local bookstore), Kevin made the decision to head to Greymouth where he took up the position of General Manager of planning and funding for the West Coast DHB, before becoming the Health Board’s Chief Executive.
So why the move to party politics?
“I reached a point where I knew that the issues we were facing in terms of climate change and environmental disregard were so massive, I needed to make a contribution, and make it now.”
Kevin’s political skill and management ability were immediately recognised with his high position on the Green Party’s list for the 2008 election.
His first impressions of Parliament say a lot about Kevin Hague.
“This is so daunting because it’s entirely new!” he says. “But it’s the best job in the world because it is rare to be a complete learner as an adult, and I now have a real chance to speak truth to power.”
At least that’s his hope. Because, as Kevin himself might say, if not now, then when?