Chris O'Connell


The news of Chris O'Connell's passing is altogether too soon. I would like to speak from a personal perspective. I bumped into Chris well over a decade ago, if memory serves me it may well have been at the Thursday Night Curry - a regular eating/drinking/chatting/laughing session a group of us frequented from the early 2000's. I spent many hours talking to Chris about how we (in the broadest sense) could change things for the better. Chris always left me with some great catch-phrases. The 3 F's (or was it 4?) - Farming, Fruits, Foreigners. FTMH - Fibre to my house! I remember standing outside on Manners street in Wellington on more than one occasion freezing cold shivering but putting up with it because Chris was speaking truth. Listening to Chris and ignoring the southerly. Good times.

Chris always imparted a wisdom and a certain practicality that always made you think about what he said afterwards. He was a charming kind man. He rallied around the underdog, and he believed that the best form of progress starts by tending to the grassroots. He was a champion of those that he felt were genuine and not flashy and full of it. Chris never deviated from that, celebrating those making a real difference - Hills Holes and Poles comes to mind. But there were many many more things that he did.

Back when I met Chris, I was not certain about the things I was trying to do, or whether they were right. Chris helped me believe. Chris also helped me question myself on some other things and reconsider. Chris was a mentor to me - but in a way that was not as 'a mentor' but as a friend. A mate. Kicking ideas around and agreeing on the good ones, and laughing away the stupid and silly ones. Challenging each other and being happy and excited about that. 

There's an old saying in the Internet community that innovation happens at the edge of the network. Where real people are. Where great ideas are. Where being prepared to do something different is and where just giving it a go is. Where it's interesting. Chris worked at the edge - making everything he was involved in, evolve into 'better' over time. His perspective often offered a street-smart or politically savvy take - how to navigate an idea to success. And I think his time in the forces gave him a particular discipline to the way he went about things. I also think that time is what made him so down to earth and concerned about other people.

There's a small number of people that I will always remember that added real colour, shape, life, wisdom and old fashioned 'mate, get on with it' qualities to the development of the modern Internet in New Zealand. Chris was one of the good ones. One of the ones that made a difference.

He will be missed dearly, and it is altogether too soon. My thoughts to his family. Your Dad, friend, partner was a truly great man. He was a wonderful person to know and he had an impact where ever he went.  He was simply a great human being.

Jamie Baddeley
President InternetNZ.