Out of Office

He may be humble but honours have come the way of horticulture expert Murray Dawson.

It’s 8.15pm on a Tuesday and Murray has helped his brother move furniture, is writing up minutes for an earlier meeting, and is working on a website he’s volunteered to run for 30 years.

As a Botanist and Science Communicator, researcher and volunteer, it would seem he doesn’t know the meaning of work-life balance, but his work is a way of living and speaks to what motivates him.

A PSA member since starting out as a technical trainee nearly 40 years ago at the then Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Murray’s career as a public servant isn’t just about his paid work at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research. 

“Because I came from a more practical and technical background, I have enjoyed writing more popular articles based on science, this is the real outreach.”


Murray’s outreach extends to schools and work as a volunteer for many organisations. He helps run iNaturalist NZ – Mātaki Taiao, and is the longest serving member on the executive of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture (RNZIH).

He’s also webmaster for the RNZIH, the NZ Botanical Society and Friends of Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

His work in schools has focused on invasive plants in their local areas and has taken him across the country.

“I find weeds quite interesting. They can be really quite beautiful in their own right.”

Presently, Murray is working on non-invasive varieties of the plant people love or loathe: agapanthus.

He’s also a fan of trees from the Myrtacae family which includes beloved plants like the pōhutukawa and mānuka. These indigenous species are susceptible to the fungal disease, myrtle rust. Murray is working on an identification tool to identify the host species to help monitor the disease.


Murray doesn’t do this work for the accolades, but he’s not short of them. Recently he was inducted as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. He’s also an Associate of Honour through the RNZIH.

“Although it’s nice to be personally recognised by these awards, and to have many hours of voluntary work acknowledged, I see them more as an accolade to botany and horticulture, and the dedication to these fields shared by many others too.”

In addition, Murray is a PSA delegate at Manaaki Whenua, seeing the value in supporting  and advocating for his colleagues.

Nā Ta’ase Vaoga


Also in this issue:

Let’s Do Even BETTER

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Committing to Wellbeing

This election we’re asking the politicians to commit to providing a collection of public services that will help ensure the wellbeing of New Zealanders.

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Aotearoa Wellbeing Commitment: Key First Steps

So how can we build a better Aotearoa together? Here are the first steps towards fulfilling the Aotearoa Wellbeing Commitment.

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Support Builds for Aotearoa Wellbeing Commitment

PSA members and the wider union movement are voicing their support for the Aotearoa Wellbeing Commitment.

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What do the politicians think?

Find out how the parties rate in our 2020 election scorecard:

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New Act affirms right to political expression

In the lead-up to the general election, the PSA welcomes the new Public Service Act’s affirmation that public servants have the same rights of political expression and freedoms as all other New Zealanders.

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New law a pathway for pay equity

It was a moment to savour for all of us who have been campaigning for pay equity.

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Supporting our Frontline Workers

The people who work on our border and in managed isolation and quarantine facilities are among those doing it tough as the battle against Covid-19 continues.

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“The virus doesn’t discriminate, neither should we”

PSA Pasefika union members have been voicing their support for the Pasefika community during the latest Covid outbreak.

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Reflections of a Webinar MC

Our Progressive Thinking webinar series has provided an opportunity for conversations about new ‘Perspectives on the Future of Public and Community Services’.

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Raising waka, not just yachts

Covid-19 has revealed how institutions in Te Ao Māori can react decisively and positively on behalf of their people, DR AMOHIA BOULTON and DEB TE KAWA write in their chapter in our Progressive Thinking series.

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Raising waka: Reflections from Te Rūnanga

Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina KUIA GEORGINA KERR supports the assessment of Progressive Thinking authors Dr Amohia Boulton and Deb Te Kawa that the overall Māori response to the initial Covid crisis was exceptionally well done.

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“We did good”

Union members are celebrating two new collective employment agreements in the community and public service sector

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Unions seek election commitments for workers

Here's what the Council of Trade Unons is asking the political parties to commit to this election:

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Safer Sick Leave

PSA delegate Bob Renshaw was among the essential workers who presented a petition calling for safer sick leave to Workplace Relations Minister Andrew Little on September 1.

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Attacks on Filipino Unionists Condemned

The murders of dozens of trade unionists in the Philippines sparked a protest in Wellington in July.

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On the Job

Donna Wealleans says support workers are told they shouldn’t get attached to their clients. But she believes you shouldn’t be doing the job if you don’t care.

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An amazing four years

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It is with mixed feelings that I sit down to write my last message to you all as PSA President.

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Climate Change is a whole of union issue

Kia ora PSA members!

Climate change is something that will impact every living thing on our planet. Should we as union members be actively working to fight it? Should climate change be one of our Strategic Goals?

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News in Brief

Protests at proposed cuts at Canterbury DHB, a campaign for home support with dignity, the PSA member card goes digital and other stories feature in our News in Brief.

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Te Tohu Reorua: Bilingual Signage

While we've just celebrated Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, there are many ways we can help promote the language all year round.

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Around and About Pics

Photos from protests against proposed cuts at Canterbury DHB, and attacks on Filipino unionists, along with the presentation of the Safer Sick Leave petition feature in our Around and About pages.

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