Tom's pad

Tom Shannon

A heart for future generations – Tom Shannon is connecting people and ideas.

High up on the hill, Tom Shannon has always had a perspective from above. It would be easy for him to separate himself from the world below, but Tom is devoted to his home, the Manawatu Region. “It’s home in the broader picture of the region,” says Tom. “My family came from different parts, I married into different parts. My roots move deep in the town of Shannon, south of Palmerston North, which bears the name of my grandfather’s grandfather. I am the eldest son’s eldest son’s eldest son!”

Tom at homeAs Tom puts it, “I was raised as a dog on the Tararua hills.” It was this upbringing that made Tom fall in love with the region, and despite studying down south and spending a year traipsing the globe, his love brought him back as a family man. With the children now grown, Tom is making a name for himself as the man working quietly away building relationships and getting things done.

It was a desire to leave something for future generations and the community that encouraged Tom to bring local parties together to create positive change. “In a previous career I was a sharebroker, and as a sharebroker you’re in the middle. I think that the business of brokering understanding is why I came out here. I left sharebroking because I didn’t like the conversation, and I left it with the view that there was more security in knowing and getting on with your neighbours than there was in a number on a piece of paper. I had been trying to foster conversations with authorities and the community as part of a river liaison committee, and I was getting frustrated with that, with how authorities engaged with communities and how communities engaged with authorities. The drive is in me, and I wonder why sometimes, but I wanted to see if I couldn’t champion a conversation in my community. I was trying to broker understanding.

I don’t think we need more research to do things, we just need to apply what we know

“In terms of what’s motivated me to put myself up there, to stand up and say things and encourage others to go past themselves – it’s a lot to do with wanting to live in a place that is peaceful and harmonious. We can’t escape, we can’t get out of this place, so that’s where our limitations lie, in the social dimension and communicating. I don’t think we need more research to do things, we just need to apply what we know.”

Entrance to the Manawatu GorgeOne of the most notable initiatives is the Manawatu Gorge Biodiversity Project that Tom was instrumental in getting off the ground. This brought together Crown representatives, three iwi and a number of other important local participants, ranging from local government to community groups, businesses and individuals all working in a collective and equal partnership. This group has led the charge to improve, preserve and highlight Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge, to great success. Visitor numbers to the area are increasing dramatically year on year, with more activities and attractions available, and more organisations getting involved.

“The dream for the place out here was established and agreed pretty easily, pretty quickly. We all appreciated how deeply it could go. It was in my mind that we could all work together without ownership changing, to create an environment that the region and the district could be proud of, and that as individual landowners we might also be better off. The mix of organisations and people out here was very diverse, and as that grew with time it became clear to me that there was no project out here without iwi. Not token iwi, because everyone can see through that, it had to be genuine involvement.

My roots move deep in the town of Shannon, south of Palmerston North, which bears the name of my grandfather’s grandfather

“It did occur to me that at different times we might have said, ‘This is too hard’, but there was no project at all if we couldn’t break through it. So it was persistence – there are a couple of us in the group who are persistent! From the government there was also support, because they had a responsibility and a role too.”

What a view!The persistence has paid off, and the relationships in the group have been strengthened over regular cups of Tom’s favourite ‘gumboot tea’. However, despite the fantastic success that Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge has experiencing so far, Tom is realistic about the challenges and what is necessary to prosper. “I feel very proud of what has been achieved, but like any relationship you can take none of it for granted. Partnership is only as good as the last conversation,” laughs Tom. “I think in the past few years I’ve become an organisational psychologist!

“I’ve listened to many sides of things, and there is this sense that being vulnerable and being yourself are what people are drawn to. It’s also important to protect oneself, to keep oneself safe, and that’s what I am learning now. To be in that place and stand and call others up, it really has to be a blank page. No clever tricks. ‘No shit, no kidding’, as someone once said to me. I am learning to do that myself, and that’s part of the personal journey.”

Kelly Evens

Behind the Medals

She’s the manager behind the medalists, five of the international competing athletes whom we are proud to call our own. Representing sporting superstars Sarah Goss, Kayla Whitelock, Simon van Velthooven, Sarah Cowley, Emily Collins, George Whitelock and Aaron Gate, Kelly Evans, creator of The Athlete Project Agency, is playing to win.

Medals 1Kelly accompanied four of her athletes as they competed at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Her team brought home a collection of silver and bronze medals and top ten placings. Experiencing the games in person, with hundreds of thousands of other spectators, was a “completely unimaginable” experience.

“It was the first Games I’d been to, and compared with watching it on TV it just does not match the excitement and the nerves. I sat with the family of each athlete when they competed. You’ve got nerves for them, because there’s been all this training and building up to these moments, and it comes down to sixty seconds, or an hour’s game,” says Kelly.

The people of Scotland were a standout and ensured that the Games were about more than just the competition itself. “Glasgow put on a magnificent show, everyone comments on that as you arrive. They are just so friendly and lovely and the whole country really got in behind the event. Sitting in the different stadiums and venues there would be Scottish families with their kids there and you could really feel the home crowd, but when their people weren’t racing they would cheer on your country next to you. There was just such a great atmosphere.”

It comes down to the people – it’s rewarding

For Kelly, sport has been a lifelong passion, and the work she does she considers the job of a lifetime. Nurtured from a young age, “I’d grown up in a sporting family, it’s always been around me,” she explains. Armed with a sport and exercise degree from Massey University and more than a decade’s experience in the sport management industry, creating The Athlete Project Agency in 2012 was a natural career choice.

Commonwealth Games Glasgow“I’ve always wanted to work in this capacity. I enjoy being behind the scenes and supporting them. I started contemplating going out on my own and starting the business, and ironically it was through the promotion of the BCC’s Innovate programme and seeing the other businesses go through that that made me take a risk and start it.”

While the business has taken off to a roaring success, the work does come with its own challenges. “With the way I run the service for my clients it really is 24/7. You can have athletes in New Zealand, in Norway, in Japan and everyone is in different time zones. If it is an important time for athletes, your timing has to change.”

It was the first Games I’d been to, and compared with watching it on TV it just does not match the excitement and the nerves

Even with the fantastic Glasgow results, Kelly is already encouraging her troupe to focus on the future, with the 2016 Rio Olympics at the forefront of every athlete’s mind. “This year is a really important year for them; they need to get good results in order to be selected to go to Rio next year. A lot of people think Rio is the big pinnacle year, but in 2015 they have a lot of work to do to ensure their position is cemented.”

Medals 2While her athletes are at the peak of their careers currently, Kelly is also there to ensure that their future is positive once they have moved on from competing. “Life after sport is a big one. In the last five to ten years their life as an elite athlete is finite. We work with them, even when they are emerging at sixteen and seventeen, to get them to focus on a life after sport.”

Even though it is a life of managing high stakes, intense pressure and time zone jumping, Kelly wouldn’t have it any other way. “We joke and call it the AP family actually; we all support one another. It comes down to the people –
it’s rewarding.”

Super Dog

Raining Cats and Dogs

Cats are well known for their attraction to cardboard boxes, but who’s ever heard of cats and rabbits in cardboard planes?

Rain, rain, go awayAnimal photographer Catherine Holmes has a knack for capturing the characters of pets. The UCOL graduate has photographed a myriad of creatures including ambitious chihuahuas selling lemonade, rushed ragdolls in pint-sized cars, and spooky ginger kitties dressed up for Halloween. “Every animal I photograph has its own distinct personality and it’s really fun to try capturing that.

“There’s this spontaneity about animal photography,” Catherine explains. “You get this really amazing photo you didn’t expect because the animal has done something exciting or looked at you in a certain way. Rather than take flat, boring portraits I’ll see that a dog likes to jump, like one I photographed the other day; he literally wouldn’t sit still, jumping the whole time. So we gave him a cape. Now he’s Super Dog and he’s flying!

My cat performed but she’s a bit over it now

“Animals lend themselves so well to emotional interpretation. A cat only has to look into the distance and you can create feelings of sadness or dreaminess.”

Hare ForceThe English ex-pat has used her artistic prowess for good in the past, creating images of animals from Palmerston North and Manawatu rescue centres, which have helped to show them off for adoption. “That’s been really good because I’ve had the opportunity to try out ideas without the pressure from clients, and the animals get exposure for re-homing.”

Catherine’s two cats, Pagan and Pinto, have also been subjected to the photographer’s visions. “I put Pagan in a cardboard aeroplane,” she says. “She only wanted to sit in boxes and I thought, how can I take this further? So I built the box into an aeroplane. I photographed it in the air so it looked like it was above ground, and then I decided to build a cardboard town underneath it,” Catherine laughs. “My cat performed but she’s a bit over it now.”

Animals lend themselves so well to emotional interpretation

It’s hard work getting unruly cuties to pose for pictures, but Catherine has built up a repertoire of tricks to make her subjects behave. “I may have graduated with a photography degree, but working with animals is this whole other skill you only learn by doing. I’ve amassed an array of fluffy toys and things that make specific noises, encouraging dogs’ ears to fly up or cats to turn around. Sometimes you have to be willing to sit on the floor with a handful of cat biscuits, waiting until your model crawls out from under the couch.”

Leonard and DelilahCatherine is currently working on a book to adorn the coffee tables of fellow pet lovers, and she has dreams of her work meeting a wider audience through greeting cards, calendars and even photography exhibitions. Her online store sells various items such as prints, pillows and bags and has proven popular beyond the local community. “There have been people from America buying my work! It’s pretty universal what I do. Everybody likes to see cute animals doing things.”