IT is a long way from Winton to Auckland, but it is nothing compared to the journey Blair Vining and his family have undertaken in recent months.
Since the confirmation of his terminal cancer diagnosis, Mr Vining has gone from humble Southland family man to the modest and unwilling leader of a national movement to improve cancer services for New Zealanders.
Tens of thousands of people signed his petition calling for just that, and last week months of agitation and lobbying resulted in the seeds being sown for a national cancer control agency and cancer control network.
The Vinings were not planning on being in Auckland for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark’s announcement of the Government’s cancer plan. His health has declined in the past two weeks and he and wife Melissa had initially thought the trek to Auckland was beyond them, but a last-minute rally resulted in the Vinings flying north on Saturday night.
“We went because of the excitement about it – was anything going to change, are they just agreeing? – but they really are making changes,” Mr Vining said.
It was also one more chance to have Mr Vining’s voice heard by the people who can bring about the change he seeks.
“I’ve never met the Prime Minister before, so that was a nice treat,” Mr Vining said.
“We sat down and had a yarn to her, and she was asking about the things I have done and answered a few questions herself – it was good to have a chinwag.”
Although the Government’s cancer plan did not contain everything he wanted, there was enough there to start working with, Mr Vining said. “We are going to go home and put our feet up now and just see what happens. Hopefully, they will carry on with what they have promised to do and save some more lives, because at the end of the day that is what it is all about.”
Family time and a holiday with his wife and daughters, Lilly and Della-May, were now his main plans, but he would be keeping an eye on the progress of the Government’s cancer plan, he said.
“I’ve put too much work into it to just let it all go by, but it is about family time now more than anything else” he said.