Catherine Margaret Haddock: educator and adventuress; b Mar 10, 1957; d September 1, 2022.
A “dress up queen” who enjoyed exploring caves, loved nature and a woman who impressed everyone she met.
Catherine Margaret Haddock, known as Cathye, loved adventure and was an influential educator.
The 65-year-old from Lower Hutt was one of five members of the Nature Photography Society of New Zealand who drowned when their charter boat overturned in Kaikōura.
Husband Peter Simpson, a former Senior DOC Ranger, said the circumstances of her death were unusual but he doesn’t want the tragedy to overshadow her lifetime achievement.
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She was born in Taumarunui to a father, Desmond, who worked as a ranger for the Forest Service. The family also spent time in Tūrangi, National Park and Rangipo.
Living in the shadow of Mount Ruapehu and in communities with significant Māori populations had two major influences on the young haddock.
The mountains and streams of the central North Island shaped her love of hiking, caving, sea kayaking, trekking in Nepal and cycling, all expressions of her passion for the outdoors.
Cathye Haddock and husband Peter Simpson trekking in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia.
All her life she couldn’t drive the Desert Road without stopping to take a picture of the volcanic mountains and send it to her siblings Mike, Jennie and Suzi. It was her way of reminding them how lucky they were to grow up in such beautiful surroundings and how important mother nature is.
An influential educator, she also had a deep respect for Māori culture and traditions, probably instilled in her from her time at a Māori girls’ college.
In later life she learned Te Reo and believed it was a matter of respect for the Māori with whom she worked that she could communicate in their language.
Ironically, given the way she died, she was also a recognized expert on risk management in outdoor education.
With her passion for the outdoors, it came as no surprise that her life partner was a ranger.
Spoonbills at Pāuatahanui by Cathye Haddock. Haddock recently joined the Nature Photography Society of New Zealand.
Haddock was working at an elementary school in Turangi when she met Simpson in the early 1980s.
In later life they had different views on where they met, either in a snow cave or at a Mountain Safety Council meeting, but their relationship was strong.
Throughout her life, Haddock had a sense of adventure, and Simpson’s sense of adventure was never clearer than when she decided to go overseas.
“She wanted to cycle around the world but only got as far as Nepal.”
A tūī feeding in her garden in Lower Hutt, photographed by Cathye Haddock.
Simpson joined her in Nepal, hiking and meeting with Nepalese national park rangers who had trained in New Zealand.
Upon returning home, Haddock had a number of roles including six years as an instructor at the Rotoiti Lodge Outdoor Education Center.
There she met her close friend and adventurer Carol Shand and her interest in risk management in outdoor education began.
After watching many “near misses,” she decided it would be a good subject for an MA. The outdoor education sector was growing rapidly and many in the industry were concerned that rules or guidelines would be too restrictive in a sector that often relies on volunteers.
With a research-based approach to the subject, she investigated incidents at the lodge and became a respected expert on outdoor safety for school groups.
After marrying in 1994, Haddock and Simpson moved to Wellington in 1996 and later settled in Lower Hutt.
Peter Simpson and Cathye Haddock on a day trip to Remutaka Forest Park.
She taught outdoor education at the Central Institute of Technology before taking a senior position for the Department of Education, where she served as a recreational risk assessment expert. Haddock wrote a manual for the Mountain Safety Council after the 2008 Mangatepopo canyoning disaster.
One of her passions was improving educational opportunities for Māori. In recent years she had worked with Ngāti Raukawa Waikato-Tainui and Ngāti Tūwharetoa in the central North Island. Her role was broad, ensuring local iwi and the wider community could achieve their educational goals.
She lived in Turangi and continued to study Māori. Miriama Prentice, director of the Purerehua Early Learning Center, said her passion and mahi have impressed everyone she has worked with.
“She was greatly appreciated by our Ariki/Supreme Chief Sir Tumu Te Heuheu and Lady Susan, their immediate family and all who worked with her in his office, Te Kapua Whakapipi.”
After his 65th birthday in March, Haddock retired and prepared for more adventures with Simpson.
“We bought an RV, she called it base camp, the mothership, and we would have many adventures. She drove him back from Auckland and that was it.”
Simpson is philosophical about the circumstances of her death and will not comment until all the facts are known.
Rather than speculating, he’s more interested in supporting family members and those involved in the accident, including the boat’s skipper.
Cycling the Timber Trail, Pureora.
As she reflects on her life, Simpson is struck by the number of people she has known and influenced.
At the heart of everything she did was her passion for life and adventure.
“The outdoor world was her church. She was not a religious person in the traditional sense, but nature and the outdoors were her religion.”
Simpson was a collector of vintage cars, and one of his fondest memories was of dressing up in period costume and driving a Morris Eight to the Art Deco Festival in Napier.
Cathye Haddock was an expert on outdoor recreation and risk.
Her death has put Haddock in the media spotlight, which hasn’t been easy for the family.
Simpson reflects that it was also difficult for the groups she served with. Outdoor groups such as sea kayakers and the photographers group were hit hard by the nature of their deaths and the public.
Shand remembers her friend as the perfect person to have close by during a disaster. The couple had been cycling with Simpson on the Tibetan plateau when he fractured his femur.
Peter Simpson and Cathye Haddock motorcycling in Vietnam.
In the middle of nowhere and with Simpson in need of expert medical attention, it would have been easy to panic. Haddock remained calm, negotiated with local authorities and insurers and was able to fly him to Kathmandu.
After seeing Haddock at her best, Shand believes her friend would take a research-based approach to the Kaikōura accident and be careful not to jump to conclusions.
“She would very much wait for the various organizations to complete their investigations and would not comment until she knew what happened.”
Sources: Peter Simpson, Carol Shand and Simon Woolf.