Rodney Haines celebrates being induced to the Attitude Awards Hall of Fame with his wife Leonie. Photos: Supplied.

Lifetime honour for Nelson disability advocate


Rodney Haines is used to breaking down barriers.

Born without arms in 1942 in Nelson, the doctors who attended Rod’s birth advised his mother to choose between euthanasia or placing him in an institution.

Rod’s mother refused both options and instead opted to take her baby boy home.

He was recently inducted into the Attitude Awards Hall of Fame at a black-tie gala ceremony in Auckland.

It was recognition of an incredible career devoted to the rights of Kiwis with disabilities.

“Just because I have no arms, it doesn’t mean I’m not as capable or as able as the next person. I may look different on the outside, but I’m just the same as everyone else on the inside.”

Rodney Haines as a child in Nelson.
Rodney Haines as a child in

Rod has had a lifetime of overcoming tough odds.

He went on to study law in Christchurch in the early 1960s, became a well-respected lawyer, including a brief stint as a judge, and eventually took over as manager of Ngawhatu Psychiatric Hospital in Nelson.

During his speech on the awards night, Rod spoke of his journey of self-acceptance.

“I was 30 before I was really comfortable with myself and with the philosophy that I was just as entitled to ‘be’, as much as the next person.”

The Attitude Awards are a nationally televised event celebrating the achievements of New Zealanders living with disabilities.

Rod was joined at the ceremony in Auckland’s Cordis Hotel by his wife Leonie, their sons Steve and Sam, daughter-in-law Berny and niece Anne.

Rod is also one of the stars of ‘No Distinguishing Features’ – a documentary on the lives of six Australasians with disabilities that has just launched for streaming in New Zealand via Vimeo On Demand.

Rod has also published an autobiography on his incredible life, Armless Not Brainless, which can be purchased as online as an e-book at or as a hard copy by emailing [email protected]