• Derek Dallow at work in the classroom (NZ Herald pic 2014).
  • Glenfield Primary, waka under construction by Derek’s students.
  • Glenfield Primary, students floating on the waka they made.
  • Glenfield Primary, the wharenui built in Derek’s classroom.
  • Derek Dallow, in law mode, around mid-2000s.
  • A recent summer crayfish – Derek loves boating and fishing.
  • Derek surfing with his eldest granddaughter.
  • Golfing features prominently in retirement plans for Derek Dallow.
  • Retirement means more icecreams with the grandchildren.

Catching up with… Derek Dallow

32 years in law, 9 years primary school teaching, now retirement!

Derek Dallow is a well-known person on the North Shore. He was a high profile lawyer for 32 years, setting up Davenports Harbour Lawyers on the Shore and being involved with many local institutions such as North Harbour Rugby, Massey University (chairing their advisory board for 10 years), Rangitoto College, Netball North Harbour, the North Harbour Stadium, and the North Harbour Club & Charitable Trust, Auckland Council CCO Regional Facilities Auckland (with Sir Don McKinnon and Dame Jenny Gibbs), and Eden Park Trust (with Hugh Burrett and Rob Fisher) – to name just a few. At age 55, Derek sold the law practice and became a primary school teacher. He went on to teach for nine years at Glenfield Primary, retiring in December 2022. The NZ Herald were interested enough with his career change to do two articles about it in the first few months of his teaching career nine years ago. Channel Mag publisher Aidan Bennett had a lot to do with Derek – as a law practice client and due to their mutual involvement in the North Harbour Club and Charitable Trust. During January he caught up with Derek to talk about the Shore, law, teaching and his plans for retirement.

AIDAN BENNETT: Derek, great to catch up and to hear that you are settling into retirement life. What are you looking forward to in retirement?
Linda and I will pick up an RV and discover a lot more of the many hidden treasures of New Zealand. I can dovetail that in with my passion for New Zealand History. With New Zealand History being introduced to the school curriculum last year, and being a proud fifth generation Kiwi, I ended up giving New Zealand History lectures to the 10 local schools. Added to that I will enjoy our large family, surfing, golf, fishing, diving, rock n roll, and I will have a go at bowls.  

AB: As you reflect on a career of two parts, what have been the highlights?
Law led me into many highlights: Supporting the development of Massey University on the Shore, The North Harbour Club and Charitable Trust, acting for the All Blacks player committee during the Packer/Murdoch rugby wars as rugby became professional; negotiating international sailing contracts; building North Harbour Stadium, developing all the four stadiums of Auckland, including Eden Park ready for the 2011 World Cup, developing the Auckland Zoo, Art Gallery, and Aotea Centre, and appointing the trustees to run the Auckland Museum.
Teaching led me into many highlights – Discovering another world on the Shore where incredible families do whatever they have to do, to survive. A world where many families can only live one day at a time. A world where such struggles build incredible characters and resilience. A world rich in cultures and languages. A world that has a ‘Special School’ to house the intellectually disabled called Wairau Special School with three outreach classes at Glenfield Primary where I was teaching. I had my class buddying up and teaching PE with the Wairau students each week and a highlight was having students enjoy playing and buddying with these students and discovering their amazing characters. Other highlights included engaging boys in building a wharenui (that took up half the classroom!), a waka to paddle around the school pool, and building several rafts (for the pool). Several girls from the class became dux or sports girl of the year, and some boys’ runner up dux, or sports boy of the year.

AB: Your career change from law to primary school teaching was a really interesting one, what was the reason for that?
I decided that I wanted to move from success to significance. Education has always been a passion, spending seven years chairing Whangaparaoa Primary Board,  seven years on Rangitoto College Board (five as Chair), and 10 years on Massey University Advisory Board. With nine grandchildren heading into primary, I hoped by entering teaching at that level, that I might have a better understanding of their world. And I now do.

AB: When you reflect on nine years teaching our young people in a decile 5 school, what are your key takings from that experience and the New Zealand education system in general?
There are two distinct very different education worlds on the North Shore – the decile 10 world, and then the lower decile one to five world. They have very little to do with each other, and they don’t understand each other. Any additional support provided by Government to balance decile inequities is minimal and hence has little impact. Through an ex-Rangitoto teacher who moved on to Kristin School I built a link between Kristin and Glenfield Primary which led to Kristin providing 400 books some years. To understand that impact, each child could choose a book and take it home. Many children would literally hug the book all day (like a Christmas present), take it home, and that was the only book in their house! I have managed to get Dame Jenny Gibbs to support art at the school, a former client to provide sports house shirts for the entire school, and North Harbour members like Phil Brosnan (Brosnan Construction) to construct much needed seating and repairs and your own team at Benefitz added our special multi-country signpost feature.

AB: You have always been someone with a strong involvement in the community and giving back. I know there are a range of things that you have been involved in. I believe you were on the advisory board at Massey University Albany Campus in its early days, you were on the Board of Trustees at Rangitoto College for some years, and Chair, and I know you gave a great deal to the North Harbour Club and Charitable Trust during its first two decades. Then there was Netball, North Harbour Rugby, Council CCO, and Eden Park etc. You were then awarded Auckland District Law Society Community Lawyer. How did you develop your passion of giving back?
When I first came to the Shore as a lawyer from Henderson aged 26, I think I was an outsider trying to break into a very well established Shore legal profession. A number of sports organisations (Sports North Harbour, North Harbour Rugby, Northern Force franchise at Netball North Harbour) were also just getting underway. Working with and for those organisations gave me the opportunity to build my law practice as they grew. I have always had a belief that “Givers gain”.

AB: I know you live on the Hibiscus Coast but have still been involved in North Shore things, what are your thoughts on the way things north of the Harbour Bridge have developed since the super city was established in 2010? You had some strong thoughts about the super city in those four to five years it was formulated back in 2005 to 2009.
Initially I was of the view that North Harbour (with North Shore the fourth largest city in New Zealand and the growth north and north-west of it) could and should carve out its own city. Then I met Sir Ron Carter and the Committee for Auckland which persuaded me that both the problems of Auckland, if solved (instead of spilling on to the North Shore), and the potential of Auckland (internationally), if realised, would have much greater long term benefits to us all. There are glimpses from time to time that may still become a reality.
In the meantime, the reality has been, that I have a beautiful reserve at the rear of my place in Arkles Bay. Under Rodney Council it was mowed every three weeks. It’s now every eight weeks. I think most people on the Shore and in the Hibiscus Coast are noticing a deterioration of Council standards and support in their immediate areas, and now the Auckland Council is broke!

AB: You must be thrilled with the way Tammy (McLeod) has grown your old law practice since you threw the towel in a decade ago?
As my trust clients expanded well beyond what I could possibly manage, I sought Tammy to move from Russell McVeagh to Davenports Harbour. Tammy was a trust specialist, trained in what was then the leading trust practice in New Zealand. I rank Tammy in the top two to three trust lawyers in New Zealand, and she has built a great team of specialists and a wonderful law practice.

AB: You guys had a big family, lots of kids! What are they all up to and you must have a few grandkids these days?
Linda and I have five children. Three are in business and finance, and we have two teachers. We have nine grandchildren who love to go on grandad adventures!

AB: What was the last book you read?
‘Freedom, the end of the human condition’, by Jeremy Griffith.
I have read hundreds of history books, have read the wisdom of all the great philosophers and religions, and have studied many of the great explorers, and nothing comes close to the discoveries in the book Freedom!

AB: Complete the following… After a working career of over 40 years, I’m now looking forward to…
Freedom…Ha! Adjusting to an empty house for the first time in 42 years after having immediate and extended family, and friends of ours living with us. Linda and I are calling it our ‘reset’ where we have more time to follow our own passions and interests and do some travelling.
With that however, there is a nagging in my soul about what I could do to bring the two worlds I spoke of above closer together. I believe it would unlock a greater understanding, knowledge, and intellect of both. From my experience there are just as many outstanding students with big dreams in the lower decile schools than the decile 10 schools – but with just fewer opportunities or linkages to those in the know, and very few role models.
I dream of a time where each decile 10 school adopted a lower decile school to support their development rather than simply offering scholarships and thereby stripping those schools of their top students. I dream of them having cultural exchanges where say the kapa haka power of a Birkdale school shakes the boots, or the Polynesian graceful beautiful dancers wow the decile 10 school, and the decile 10 school introduces their top orchestral music, or green screen digital movie making to the lower decile school. I dream of North Harbour Club members going into lower decile schools teaching both the teachers and parents about the North Harbour Club and its AIMES Awards and then offering to help students from lower decile schools to actually put together AIMES Award applications. And a time where student leaders of decile 10 schools worked with (and learning from) student leaders from lower decile schools.
Each year for eight years I had 40-50 Kristin School students spend a day at Glenfield Primary. Our class with 15 different cultures (and often 30 different languages) would begin by introducing themselves and welcoming the Kristin students in the languages they know. The record was a Singaporean girl, who at aged nine could flow beautifully in and out of five languages. Most had two and many had three languages. English was often not the home language. It was then the Kristin students turn to introduce themselves. 90% of them could only speak English.