Liz Greive qualified as a social worker in England and in 1977 moved to New Zealand. Here, she worked in her chosen field for many years, helping particularly the Māori and Pasifika communities in South Auckland. She later returned to London, where she did more studies in social work and set up her own consultancy, training social workers and working with deeply troubled children. Back in NZ, she took time out from working to support her family, who had interests in Flight Centre and Barkers, the menswear clothing company. Later in life, she launched Share My Super, a charity that assists Kiwis with surplus superannuation to donate it to causes focused on alleviating child poverty. 

I grew up in a very small town in the Lake District in the north of England. There wasn't a lot going on. I remember it being very cold in winter.

What made an impression on me, when I was about five or six, were a couple of girls who were always really thin and didn’t have a dad around, so I asked the question why and got the response that their father had died of TB [tuberculosis]. I thought, "How can somebody die of a TV?"

My first job was terrible. Next door to where we lived was the Electricity Board, and they employed a lot of people, so my father said, "Why don't you go down there and ask them for a job?" The structure of the organisation was such that they never promoted women of child-bearing age. I was not allowed to do senior work. I was bored. Then my sister said, "Let's go to Paris."

We au paired in Paris for six months, then I got a job in social work back in Chester.

I was the major breadwinner when my then-husband, Chris, and I first married. He wanted to do a degree, so we came back here for him to do it. And then we went back to the UK. 

He had a bachelor of arts, but unemployment was rife. I walked into a job, but he could not find work despite applying for job after job. It was a really challenging time; it was challenging for him.

He finally got a job, selling petrol at a filling station. That meant that for the next seven or eight years, I was the major breadwinner. It was my responsibility to be the earner.

Chris later worked with Top Deck Travel and received shares in the company. We bought a house and were sort of comfortable. Then an offer came to buy out his shareholding. So we decided we would come back to NZ for a year to give the kids the experience of living here.

Chris got involved in the Flight Centre Group and then it was my turn to stay home. From then on, I didn't really practise as a social worker, I just did things that interested me. The children came first then because Chris was away a great deal.

Look, it was okay. At least we were comfortably off – not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but we had no worries about bills.

Liz Greive in 2008 after climbing Mt Ka'ala (1,227m), the tallest peak on Oahu in Hawaii. (Image: Supplied)  

My self-esteem was challenged, though, because I'd gone from being the breadwinner to it all being about him, and all decisions were made around what his job demanded.

When people came around for dinner or something like that, they wouldn't talk to me about who I was, because they thought I was nothing.

The past eight years, since Chris and I separated, have been transformational for me. I took charge of my own affairs and didn't really have to consult anybody.

I started meeting a whole bunch of new people who were interested in me as a person and encouraged me to develop my skills and join the Institute of Directors.

Son Duncan, high-profile journalist and publisher of The Spinoff website. Says his mother: "I’ve gone from being Chris’s wife to Duncan Greive's mother. One day, I’ll be just Liz Greive." (Image: NZME)

Women can be excluded from conversations, which reduces their learning. I would say to women to make sure that they are always included in conversations about financial decisions, and investment decisions.

When my pension turned up, I thought, "It's not going to change anything for me, it makes no difference." I was well aware of the level of hardship for a lot of people in this country, and that was what got me thinking about finding a way of giving the superannuation away and encouraging others to do likewise.

Being able to set up Share My Super and run it myself was very empowering.

I’ve gone from being Chris’s wife to Duncan Greive's mother. One day, I’ll be just Liz Greive.

With grandson Gray in 2019. (Image: Supplied)

I'm very soulful. I have a place on Waiheke – I go over there – and I like gardening and reading.

What's most important to me is my kids and my grandchildren. They're absolutely the centre of my heart. Nothing matters except them.

As told to Victoria Young.

This interview has been edited for clarity.