Keith Gutsell joined the Navy after leaving school, but the experience of going to Muroroa Atoll on the frigate Otago in 1973 and being ordered to stand by in the face of the injustice of the French attacks on anti-nuclear protestors proved too much for him. He got a job as a meat inspector in Invercargill, his home town, and joined the PSA.
As a delegate he went to Wellington, where he spent an increasing amount of time on PSA duties. He was elected to the executive in the mid 1990s and ran on the “Ticket for Change” in 1998. In 2001, he became Vice-President and was President from 2004 to2008. A long-time member of the environment sector committee (until 2010), he is still involved with the PSA and is still working as a meat inspector.
“My best memory of Helen Clark was when I was signing off the PFQ[Partnership for Quality] 3 as President in 2008, the last PFQ, unfortunately. All the documentation had been prepared beforehand and we’d already signed it to get the partners to start enacting. We were in the banquet room in Parliament, there were about 120 guests, including the State Services Commission and lots of employers.
There were two seats right at the front for us so Helen and I sat down and she said to me, “We’re just here to date this, aren’t we?” and I said, “Yes, Prime Minister, this is our third date.” I must have said it a bit louder than I thought because quite a few started laughing and when I looked over at Helen I’ll swear she was slightly red. It’s still remembered as the time the President asked the Prime Minister for a date.”
The State and the Union - An Oral History of the PSA from 1984 to 2012, by Mary Ellen O'Connor.