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Beth Watson and MND NZ


28 March 2024

Beth Watson

There are many people who have contributed to MND NZ over its past decades, but possibly none more so than Beth Watson who sadly passed away in June 2023.

Beth Watson was a tireless advocate for people with motor neurone disease (MND) and the work of MND NZ for nearly 25 years including thousands of hours fundraising and walking alongside people and their families living with MND.  

Beth was the association’s president, between 2012 and 2018, after having spent a number of years as the National Executive Officer in the early 2000s before joining MND NZ’s Council in 2007.

Beth’s work for MND NZ started after she joined the Wellington committee as a volunteer, focused on fundraising for support services, including a local support worker to assist people living with MND.

Her tireless fundraising included coordinating and attending regular collections at the Wellington Railway station, selling a range of merchandise, organising luncheons, movie nights, afternoon teas and supporting people holding events by attending and speaking on behalf of MND NZ as required.

She was instrumental in the first Walk 2 D Feet MND in New Zealand, along with Dr Claire Reilly, which is a cornerstone fundraising event for the association and has helped raise awareness of the disease and the association's work here in NZ. 

Beth also established close relationships across a variety of networks including with the Australian MND association, enabling greater collaboration, benefiting us here in New Zealand where we have a much more limited support and research infrastructure. 

Beth build a close partnership with Dr Claire Reilly, who has been living with MND since 2006, and together the pair worked with Dr Emma Scotter at the University of Auckland, to establish the New Zealand MND Research Network (  It was Beth’s relationships with Australian colleagues that helped the university to enter participants details into an already established and supported database.    

Beth took part in dozens of events, including Carey Vivian’s ‘Race Against Time', a fundraising bike ride around New Zealand. Importantly for Beth she wasn’t just supporting fundraising initiatives, but for the people she walked alongside it validated their efforts and demonstrated how much could still be achieved, despite their diagnosis.

Even following her own cancer diagnosis earlier this year, Beth launched a project on Give-A-Little to help her bring a children's book to New Zealand to support families impacted by motor neurone disease called What Did You Learn Today? There are countless other examples including Beth wearing (and selling) temporary cornflower tattoos and driving around with a boot full of MND merchandise – Beth was always ready to sell someone a Hope Puppy, an association mascot at the time.

She also advocated on behalf of people with MND, including in 2018 when she appeared before two Parliamentary select committees – the Medicinal Cannabis Amendment Bill and the End of Life Choice Bill to ensure that any rights that may be created by either Bill did not discriminate or negatively impact against people with MND. 

The association will be forever grateful for Beth's tireless energy, and passion for advocating for people with MND. Without her work it's unlikely MND NZ would be where it is today, after years of only just affording to pay staff wages and other basic costs.

Beth wanted her funeral to be a day of celebration and to thank the people who made her and who helped her find purpose in her life. Well, as an association member, and former co-President of MND NZ, I say thank you to you Beth for all that you have done for people with MND in New Zealand. When my dad passed away from this illness in 2009, you gave me the strength and courage to face the disease and give something back. Arohanui, my friend, for all that you have done, from all of us.

Written by Anna Chalmers, in memory of Beth.

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