Private eye

By Francesca Emms
Photography by Anna Briggs

Featured in Capital #69
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Peter Grimmer looks deep into the eyes of Wellingtonians to crack every case. “Being an optometrist, you’re more or less a detective. A person has a problem, either a visual one or an eye disease one, and you need to solve that problem. It’s a good science, and you need to think in straight lines,” he says.

A self-confessed “sports junkie”, when Peter’s not at McClellan Grimmer Edgar Optometrists on Customhouse Quay, he’ll mostly like be at the gym or the yoga studio. “I started yoga about two years ago. I still can’t stick my nose on my knees but it’s good for you.” He also loves snow skiing, and Central Otago is his first choice for holidays. “It’s just too beautiful down there,” he says, “whether I am skiing, tramping, restaurant-ing or wine tasting.” On Sundays Peter gets into the kitchen. “My big unwind is cooking – most Sundays my adult kids and their partners come over and I do the dinner. My biggest influence was the brilliant Pierre Meyer – after Pierre closed his restaurant and started his cooking school out of his house in Khandallah I was a regular attendee.”

What’s his favourite place in Wellington? “Well, it used to be the Civic Square but now most of it is closed. A message to our local politicians: stop looking at the problems and get on with it – the iconic town hall has been closed for seven years! The St James for five years!” But he says Wellington has some really good architecture: “When I give out-of-towners the guided tour, I always stop the car outside Antrim House on Boulcott – blink and you’d miss it.” For coffee, Peter heads to L’affare. “When they renovated I was deeply concerned that they would cock it up (none of my business) but no! It’s modern, grungy, industrial and great coffee, instead of old, tired, grungy, industrial and great coffee.” He’s also a regular at Lighthouse Cuba, so much so he reckons he might have a legitimate shareholding claim. (Favourite movies: Breakfast at Tiffany’s and both Blade Runner films.)

Peter has always been interested in eyes, “ever since having surgery as a child for squint (a turned eye) and regular visits to my eye care practitioner.” As well as being a clinical optometrist, he is heavily involved in the administration of the optometry profession. He’s lectured, published papers, examined final-year optometry students, and spent eight years on the Registration Authority and six years as an Elected Director of the Optometry Council of Australian and New Zealand. What makes eyes so appealing? “The eye care industry is diverse and changing all the time. You have to have a position in the marketplace that you are comfortable with in terms of the provision of eye care and you need to embrace technology (where there is huge choice). Online eye exams are just around the corner!” But he also enjoys the day to day work: “When you get okay at your job you can yarn more – behind every pair of eyes there is often a really interesting person.”


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