Vows of silence for 20 years


Heard the one about the distraught young woman who’d just moved into a Queenstown flat vacated by a brothel – and her phone wouldn’t stop ringing?

Citizens Advice Bureau staff have had their share of quirky inquiries, and volunteers past and present will be telling their tales at CAB’s 20th birthday tomorrow. “We were able to say [to the young woman], ‘Take the phone off the hook’,” foundation volunteer Joan Cooke laughs.

Or the time a juggler on a unicycle turned up to ask how he could get a gig.

He couldn’t help putting on an impromptu show, which went on and on until volunteer Isobel Bremner lost patience: “My, young man, please put those balls away!”

Working out of CAB’s present rooms, Joan Allan often witnessed wedding parties outside the former courthouse next door, especially on Fridays.

Regaining her voice after a stroke, Allan says one of the hardest words to get her tongue round was “citizens”.
“People must have thought there was a drunk on the end of the phone.”

Volunteers formed marvellous friendships, met people they’d never meet otherwise, and heard who was being naughty, Allan says. “But you couldn’t talk about anything out of the office, it was like a vow of silence.”

Former mayoress Lorraine Cooper, who’s been on CAB’s roster since 1993, says tenancy, immigration and general consumer issues have always generated most inquiries.

At one stage CAB was almost a de facto immigration office when the Government withdrew its local service, she says.

CAB birthday celebrations follow its annual meeting starting at Frankton’s St John rooms at 11am tomorrow