Category Archives: Issue 4

Andy Kruy

Chasing The Games

Sportsman Andy Kruy is currently the third-fastest man in the country, and at just 22 years old. His achievements in athletics include medals in the 100 metres and long jump at New Zealand championship level. With no signs of slowing down (literally), he looks forward to some day becoming the fastest man in New Zealand.

Andy found his passion for sports at a young age, when his early school days were filled with playing lunchtime games with friends. It was the influence of these friends that had Andy wanting to play Saturday morning rugby for a local club. “It’s a funny story, because I remember when I was 11 years old I had to beg my Dad to let me play. I think I even cried so that he would say yes.”

Andy understands how his parents might have seen club sport as a distraction from getting a much-valued education, given what they had been through. Andy’s parents came to
New Zealand as refugees, having escaped from Cambodia during the rule of the communist Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. This devastating government cost nearly two million
Cambodians their lives during the four years that would become known as the Cambodian Genocide.

“When I was younger I was told about this, just so that I would know where I had come from and how fortunate we were to live in this land of opportunity.”

Andy KruyAttending Freyberg High School gave Andy plenty of opportunities, and in particular allowed him to further his interest in sports. However, Andy was also faced with his
biggest challenge during his time at high school, when his mother passed away.

“I wanted to give up sport, and I actually took a month off to go back to Cambodia.”

On returning to New Zealand, Andy found his passion for sport had not left him, and what followed was what he personally considers one of his most successful years.

While in his last year of high school, Andy managed to juggle club sports, his role as a House Captain and school work, while also gaining scholarships that would enable him to attend Massey University. He made history as House Captain by leading his house to win the House Cup for the first time in 15 years. This was also the first year that he won a national title in long jump, breaking the long jump record held by former professional rugby player Mark Ranby.

At Massey University, Andy decided to switch his sporting focus to athletics. The close proximity of the track, and support from the Academy of Sport, helped him to balance
his studies with his training.

“Some days I would have to skip training to get assignments done, but overall it was really easy. After my lectures finished for the day I could jump straight down to the
track. If it had been even five kilometres away it would have been way more difficult.”

This balancing act between sport and study paid off for Andy, when he graduated from Massey with a Bachelor of Business Studies in Sport Management and Business Management, as well as making the senior grade in athletics.

With his degree in hand Andy has gone on to work at Sport Manawatu as a Community Sports Advisor. This role involves working with sports clubs and unions around the
region to increase participation in sport, increase junior numbers, and help groups with funding opportunities – work that Andy is loving.

Realistically, I have from now until I’m maybe 30, so that’s really only eight years to live this dream.

Meanwhile Andy’s job hasn’t slowed him down at all on the track. He gained a bronze medal in the 2013 New Zealand championship men’s 100 metres, and as a member of the New
Zealand men’s relay squad he and teammates Scott Burch, Zac Topping and William Smart came second in the 2013 senior men’s national competition.

Although he has to travel north every two months to train with the rest of the relay team, Andy himself has never felt he needed to move to further his sporting career. A big reason for this is the confidence he has in his coaches.

“Anne Thomson and George McConachy have been coaching me for a good five years now and our great relationship is getting results, so why move?”

These past few years have kept Andy quite busy, and although he may not have a lot of spare time outside sports, Andy knows he won’t be competing in athletics meets all his life. “Realistically, I have from now until I’m maybe 30, so that’s really only eight years to live this dream.”

SPELAD-Cover

Teachers being kept in the dark

Rachel Bradley and Elizabeth Manson form a duo that aims to make an impact on the education system. On the lawn of St Mark’s and St Andrew’s Presbyterian church in Palmerston North, lies the unassuming, prefabricated office building of SPELADD, an organisation committed to teaching and helping those with learning difficulties.

The pair warn that teachers across the country aren’t being given the skills needed to teach children with learning difficulties like ADHD and dyslexia. One incident observed by Rachel saw a teacher shouting at a student with ADHD. “The student couldn’t help bursting out because she hadn’t been helped, and the teacher was shouting at her in a voice that you wouldn’t use on your dog. It broke my heart,” says Rachel.

Dedicated teachersManawatu schools are mostly highly cooperative in assisting SPELADD with these children; however, Rachel outlines that one school denied her services, free of charge, telling her that the teacher had the necessary skills to deal with it. “They think they know what they’re talking about, and they really don’t, it’s just stubborn,” says Rachel.

Rachel explains that one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is being able to resolve misunderstandings between children and teachers, “to show they’re not bad kids, and to show them how they can help,” says Rachel.

“It’s a human right to have access to education and in New Zealand we are supposed to have free education for all, but because of these children’s specific disabilities, they can’t access that education,” says Rachel.

For several years Rachel attempted to help a child with his spelling without success, “I caught up with him one day, and he told me that he was doing a course at UCOL. He said that he still couldn’t spell, but that I had helped him realise that it didn’t mean he was stupid. I thought I had failed this kid, it was a huge boost for me,” says Rachel.

Everybody’s different, the system doesn’t suit everyone; once you get into the real world, you can shine. Entrepreneurs, celebrities, all kinds of amazing people have learning difficulties.

Rachel’s goal for the next few years is to strengthen the organisation, training new staff as the organisation enters a transitional growth phase. “We are presently very limited and localised, and we want to get out there, and be more active,” says Rachel.

Elizabeth and Rachel rely on grants, donations and the fees collected from parents, explaining that they reject government funding as they feel the Government actually hinders them from helping these children. “The government didn’t even recognise dyslexia as a learning disability until 2007,” says Elizabeth.

Rachel describes the support of local business as invaluable. “It’s the people with passion who get behind it, because they know the struggle that these kids are going through,” says Bradley.

Jorge at home

A Chilean’s legacy

Jorge Sandoval has been many things in his time. From cabinet maker to international cycling promoter, his story is one of heartbreak, triumph and unwavering determination.

From an early age Jorge developed a love of cycling as the Tour of Chile rode through his home town of Tome, a small city by the sea. Jorge would follow the riders and listen to their languages as he dreamt of riding amongst them. Although his family was very poor and his country was in political upheaval, he describes his childhood as a time of “happiness and beauty”.

History in his handsHis childhood was to be cut short when he was denounced as a traitor for crimes against the dictator Augusto Pinochet at age 19. He was imprisoned in a concentration camp where he was tortured and bore witness to the murders of a number of his fellow prisoners. Unbeknown to the military, one of the camp guards was Jorge’s own brother, and both had to remain silent to ensure the other’s survival.

After a year of imprisonment he was released to his family, and as he left the camp he smuggled out a small wooden sign a fellow prisoner had made, to remember his ordeal by. Fearing for his life, Jorge decided to escape illegally to Argentina with his pregnant fiancée. After a short time in Argentina, the pair chose to immigrate to New Zealand, and on 26th November 1976 they landed in Wellington.

There wasn’t a day I didn’t think about my family, or my country.

After just four days Jorge was put to work in a factory for 12 hours a day, without knowing a word of English. He says the language gap caused workers to treat him with extreme prejudice: “because you can’t speak the language, they think you’re a dumb ass, they think you’re ignorant”. Jorge describes these years as the toughest: “there wasn’t a day I didn’t think about my family, or my country”.

Jorge found support for refugees at the time “non-existent”, and simple tasks like finding sugar in the supermarket would take Jorge hours. Jorge and his friends had to resort to tasting things in the aisles, and one of his friends mistakenly fed his family dog food, as he thought it was cheap ham.

Jorge reacts to hearing about an accident during a raceIt was only when Jorge joined a Wellington cycling club that he began to meet new people and learn the English language. “I had to adapt to New Zealand because New Zealand never adapted to me,” he says. Jorge proved to have a talent for the sport and within a couple of years he was selected to join the New Zealand cycling team, and began touring around the world.

In 1988 the team was to ride the Tour of Chile, providing Jorge with the chance to return to his home town and fulfil his childhood dream. When Jorge arrived, armed guards met him at the terminal and took him for questioning. He had no idea if they knew who he was or if they would imprison him again, but he was able to lie and enter undetected. He describes the ride through his town as one of the proudest moments of his life.

But Jorge’s influence off the road was to be his greatest contribution to the sport, and in 1988 Jorge launched the first Tour of Wellington. Before this, Wellington had had no tours or significant cycling events, prompting vigorous complaints from Jorge.

“One day they got so sick of me that they said, ‘You know what Jorge? You are so smart, why don’t you do it?’. So I did.” A quarter of a century later, it’s now the biggest international cycling event in the country, attracting riders from all over the world.

One day they got so sick of me that they said, ‘You know what Jorge? You are so smart, why don’t you do it?’. So I did.

His contribution to the sport became clear when he was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in 2006, for both the men’s and women’s professional cycling tours. When he returned to Chile with the medal he was named as an honorary citizen, by the very man who had denounced him as a criminal all those years ago.

In 2011 the tour was renamed the New Zealand Cycle Classic and moved to Palmerston North, as Jorge considered Manawatu “the perfect cycle destination” with its smooth roads and stunning hill climbs. Jorge thinks cycling in the area is improving, but it pales in comparison with other countries where it is “second only to religion”.

Jorge, still proud of where he came fromHowever, Jorge describes a darker side to cycling in New Zealand, as drivers’ attitudes to cyclists are very poor. “I’ve never allowed my children on the road, because of what I have seen.” To improve the sport, Jorge feels drivers and cyclists need to try to understand each other better and share the road.

When Jorge had saved up enough money, he was able to bring both of his brothers to New Zealand to work. His brothers’ plight highlights the employment problems in Chile, as both brothers were out of work despite being accountancy and teaching professionals. The two brothers now own their own businesses and all three visit Chile once a year, as well as sending money every month to other family members.

Jorge feels that the country is beautiful, the schools and hospitals are excellent, and that life in New Zealand is full of possibilities. “A lot of immigrants come here and they are capable of a lot more, but you’ve got to work hard, don’t take no for an answer,” says Jorge.

“This country has done a lot for me, a lot. I’m not going to be here forever, but I hope that when I’m gone, people remember that this Chilean refugee came to this country and his legacy is here.”

Hester Guy and her team

Creating a new taste

Hester Guy is one of New Zealand’s most recognised food personalities, driven by her love of and dedication to cooking. Her reputation has been built on years of work in the industry, developing catering companies, teaching cooking skills in people’s homes, and presenting her own television programme, “Hester Guy Cooks”.

Beautiful food at Create Eatery“I’ve always been interested in cooking. My mother was an extremely good cook and it runs in the family. All my cousins cook, and food is the main topic of conversation.”

Born just north of Levin in Koputaroa, Hester discovered a love of cooking that was destined to inspire her travelling. Having always wanted to attend cooking school, upon
completing university Hester decided to leave New Zealand and train at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in London. Once she had completed her course she travelled, always with food in mind, until she returned to New Zealand to start up what was to become a successful catering business in Wellington.

“I then married a farmer and came to live in Shannon, where there was little call for my services.” Instead Hester started travelling New Zealand, demonstrating cooking to groups of women. “At the time nouvelle cuisine was changing the face of cooking. Cooking was becoming lighter, seasonal and cleaner in flavour.

Create Eatery“At the same time I had seen how the chicken industry had changed and customers were able to buy new ready-to-cook cuts of chicken. I thought this same theory could surely be
applied to lamb.”

In response to this idea Hester and her husband began to develop new lamb cuts, a project that was launched through Woolworths. It took time for the concept of trim lamb to be accepted, as it was a far cry from the traditional roast meat. Hester feels that there is still further potential for cheaper cuts of lamb to be used for more ethnic-styled cooking.

This innovation gave Hester the opportunity to do a cooking show on television. “I really wanted people to learn to cook and handle products and understand the basic principles. We all have to eat, so why not cook to the very best of your ability?”

Food projects and developments have been a theme throughout Hester’s life. These have included working with Massey University to research the sous-vide cooking process, which involves very slow cooking of vacuum-sealed food and is now a process embraced by many chefs. She has also developed a successful range of salads and chilled meals for supermarkets.

Natural produce at its finestHester has now opened, in conjunction with her catering business, a sophisticated and friendly café in Palmerston North, which focuses on serving those who want healthy alternative takeaways. Create Eatery came from the desire to have a small takeout venue that used the very best ingredients in all its cooking. Hester and her team produce freshly prepared gourmet meals daily, as well as frozen meals that make for easy home dinners, a range that she plans to expand in response to its popularity.

Recognising that she is not necessarily good at managing people, Hester employs people around her who complement her strengths. With her talented chef Liz Parkes, front of house personality Douglas Begg and the rest of her team, Hester thinks that the food they present is “stylish and unpretentious, but delicious”.

“Cooking good food is not difficult, but it takes care, love and an awareness of the food you’re handling. When people eat your food, you watch their faces, and if their eyes light up you’ve got it.”

Ian Harmann

In pursuit of an audience

Ian Harman is a man of many talents – magician, dancer, choreographer, costume designer and director, to name only a few. With a CV that is “ridiculously long”, Ian has become a figurehead within the performing arts community of Palmerston North, designing costumes for Centrepoint, directing for Abbey Theatre, and creating and starring in his own cabaret and burlesque shows.

A sense of devotion to his audience has been a common trend throughout Ian’s career. In his first experience of theatre, as Jack Horner in a school play at age five, Ian tells how he felt “this big amount of love and support” from the crowd. “From there I was wrecked for life really,” and Ian has been pursuing the audience’s adoration ever since.

Ian Harman“My focus is always that the audience has a great experience, and that they are comfortable, or at least delightedly shocked, by what happens; that they are entertained, or feel something.”

In recent years Ian’s focus has been on burlesque, and his hugely popular performance group The Boom Boom Room has performed all around New Zealand. As he describes it, burlesque is “a lovely transition of cabaret and vaudeville and magic and slapstick and old-style theatre. It’s very empowering, and it’s not like any other kind of performance I’ve done in my life”. Even more importantly, Ian feels it is an art form that really connects with its audience.

“With burlesque the gratification you get from your audience is really different. Burlesque isn’t just about taking your clothes off, it’s about revealing something emotional or physical about yourself. Even if you don’t take your clothes off, you’re very naked up there. I think the audience appreciates that vulnerability.”

Burlesque isn’t just about taking your clothes off, it’s about revealing something emotional or physical about yourself.

When he isn’t touring the country with his burlesque troupe, Ian is happy at home in Palmerston North. His only major irritation with his adopted home town is “that I get people asking me when I’m going to leave”. People often suggest that he needs to move in order to succeed in the arts, but Ian thinks that the opposite is true.

“We’re an incredibly cultural city, and I think sometimes Palmerston North doesn’t actually realise what talent we have, and how good the theatre here is. There is an incredible number of talented and creative people in this town, and it’s supported my arts career for a really long time, which is pretty amazing in itself.”

Ian HarmannWhile he has made a career in the performing arts, Ian assures that he “isn’t a nut about it”, and that there is a separation between the characters people see on stage and him in real life. “It doesn’t rule my private life, which I think people are surprised about. Most people meet me as a character, and most of the characters I play are incredibly flamboyant and out there, and then they meet me as a person and I’m reasonably quiet. If I’m at a party I’m usually in a corner having a chat with someone about something serious, not dancing on a table, which is what my characters would be doing. I feel that I’m disappointing people on a regular basis, because I’m not quite what they expected.”

Despite the clash of private versus stage personas, Ian knows he will never leave the stage. “In any job or career I think there are moments when you think, ‘It’s got to be easier than this’. But actually I’ve been doing this for so long I can’t imagine doing anything else. That’s my curse, I’m creative.”

Mike West and family

West is definitely the right direction on air

As the host of More FM’s breakfast show Mike West in the Morning, Mike West is a household name, with more than 35 years in the industry. But behind the public figure lies a devoted husband and father.

From the age of 14 Mike knew he wanted a career in radio, inspired by former DJ Kevin Black, who West describes as “the funniest guy on the planet”. However, getting a job on radio was no small feat and West describes hounding every radio station in the country, itching for an opportunity.

Mike WestAt age 17, Radio Windy gave him that opportunity, and Mike moved to Wellington to do the Midnight to Dawn show, which he describes as a terrifying and thrilling experience for a “young naive boy from Palmerston North”. Back then, Mike was known by his birth name, Blain Yarrall, and only received
his radio name after a boss thought his name wasn’t going to cut it on radio.

When Mike returned to Manawatu he walked into a Cook Street dairy, not knowing he was about to meet his future wife. “The owner of the dairy told me that Amanda had to go and put her head inside the freezer just to cool down after seeing me. I thought that was so funny and a bit cute,” says Mike. By pure chance, they crossed paths again while Mike was broadcasting for a fundraiser, and the rest is history.

The births of Mike’s sons, Jason and Sam, have had a lasting impact on the veteran broadcaster: “all my priorities in life seemed to automatically change from that point and family became the most important thing”. From a very young age, Mike’s children would ring him while he was at work, and he would answer the calls on air, describing one situation when a three-year-old Jason commanded Mike to bring home more doughnuts.

“I’ve had a few job offers over the years, including one from Sydney, but I’ve always liked living in Manawatu,”

Both Sam and Jason have pursued careers in radio, with Sam working with his father in the promotions and marketing department of More FM, and Jason working with Sydney-based Nova 969. “I guess they had a lot of fun with me working in radio, and they saw the fun that I had, and they decided they wanted to get into it too.

“I’ve had a few job offers over the years, including one from Sydney, but I’ve always liked living in Manawatu,” says Mike.

Mike WestMike says the schools, the lifestyle and the people are the reasons why he raised his kids here, and why he and Amanda
continue to live here.

Late last year Mike feared for his career as he began having trouble with his voice. “It was like someone was turning down the volume, and by the evening I could hardly speak.” Acting on the advice of a friend, Mike had it checked and a small cyst was found on his vocal chords, which was removed in October last year, giving the broadcaster his voice back.

For those aspiring to be on radio, Mike says that the key to entering the industry is getting hands-on experience with a station, getting trained, and having a competitive attitude.

“Life’s what you make it. If you’re going to sit around on the couch and watch TV all day you’re going to get bored, and you’re going to think this is a boring place, but if you get up, find some things to do, it’s a great place.”

Plant to Plate

A generation growing food for the soul

Some might take for granted the ability to grow and prepare their own meals, but when retired school principal Ros Powell plants a seed, she’s passing knowledge to generations of people who are learning, for the first time, how to garden and cook.

Most weeks of the school year, Ros Powell and fellow volunteers take vans with gardening equipment and a mobile kitchen into schools, inspiring young people to be more involved with what they eat.

Home grown goodnessEstablished four years ago as a charitable trust, Plant to Plate Aotearoa is a community programme, free to all primary schools across Palmerston North and the Manawatū district. The programme is led by teachers and assisted by experienced, enthusiastic volunteers who enjoy passing on their skills to children and their teachers.

The programme was started by several retirees who saw a need in their local schools. “We began with nothing, purchasing items from our own pockets and catering for several events to cover costs,” Ros says. “People donated goods to us and further assistance came from Awapuni Rotary Club, Palmerston North Inner Wheel, Pioneer New World, the Palmerston North Environmental Trust and the Palmerston North City Council.

“Our first morale boost came early when Awapuni Nurseries donated seedlings to Plant to Plate Aotearoa used in each school we visited. Other highlights were a substantial three year grant from The Tindall Foundation and the gift of a vehicle from Awapuni Rotary Club. In 2010 Plant to Plate Aotearoa won the Palmerston North Trustpower Community Award for Volunteerism, which really validated the work we do.”

“Our mantra is seasonality, thrift and independence.”

Plant to Plate volunteers are invited into schools to give a minimum of three gardening and cooking sessions to a class of children. The children build the gardens themselves using
simple wooden boxing; they learn how to plant seeds and seedlings, make compost and care for their school gardens.

“Our mantra is seasonality, thrift and independence,” Ros says. “For the cooking side, we use staple ingredients from the home store cupboard and produce that is in season, to
create simple, delicious meals together, while having fun.”

Menu items include soups, breads, salads, muffins, miniquiches and potatoes in several forms. The class is divided into two groups during the three-hour session, with one half gardening and the other cooking, before swapping over so that each child participates in both activities.

Ros says that even teachers have been surprised at the response from children, who are so enthusiastic about food growing and cooking – possibly influenced by the proliferation of cooking shows. “The surge in TV cooking shows has certainly been good for us. The kids are excited to get involved and don their aprons – boys equally as much as girls.”

Fun making food

Each session concludes with a sit-down meal. Tables, aprons, tablecloths, cutlery, glassware and dishes are all provided, and the children are taught to lay place settings for the meal – a skill that Ros says is surprisingly rare these days.

“A large number of families no longer eat at the dining table, so this is something new and exciting for some of our kids. They call it their ‘restaurant’. Plant to Plate sees eating together as a social skill, so we place importance on good manners and friendly conversation at the table.”

To date, Plant to Plate Aotearoa has worked with more than 3500 children from 36 primary schools across the region – sometimes visiting more than one school in the same week.
“We’re thrilled when we’re invited back to a school to see that the programme’s teaching has become ingrained,” Ros says. “Connecting with the Earth keeps children healthy and encourages economic and physical independence.

“What we do isn’t unique, but our mobility and the way that we operate across the schools in Palmerston North and district are,” she says. “Our vision is to teach as many children as we can life skills around the growing and cooking of food, and help them to learn ways to care for the environment and Earth’s resources. It gives us back something as well – a real sense of contribution and achievement.”

“The kids are excited to get involved.”

Ros says the volunteers range in age from retired people to part-time workers, volunteers from the Multicultural Centre and international students from Massey University.

“It’s so rewarding for us to have such a worthwhile project in which to invest our time and energy. The international volunteers from China, Korea, the United States, South Africa, Russia and Britain have been wonderful and really enjoy the opportunity to integrate with our community – and we learn something from them as well.”

While the programme is a rewarding one, she says that at times it can be confronting. “We do see children for whom food security is an issue, particularly at a time of recession as we have now. There are genuinely hungry children out there, and it’s important that we as a community appreciate the circumstances our children are faced with every day, in order to make a difference.”

Making that difference, she says, is part of a unique privilege that is creating a lasting legacy. “Parents sometimes stop us in the street to tell us they’ve started their own gardens at home, or are using our recipes for their meals.

“We’ve been so grateful to have wide support for something we are so passionate about, in the form of volunteers, grants, donations and sponsorship. This is work that is is good for the soul.”

www.planttoplateaotearoa.org.nz

Shepherd's Rest Van

Modern-Day Shepherd

A safe place to stay, a ride home, or even just a free sausage. These are just the obvious aspects of what Shepherd’s Rest and the Street Van offer. Since their formation in 1995, the Palmerston North Street Van and Shepherd’s Rest have been doing their part to support the safety and wellbeing of the people in the city, from students out on the town to the homeless and those trapped in cycles of addiction.

Lew FindlayThe driving force, both behind the scenes and out on the streets running the Street Van into the wee hours of the night, is Lew Findlay. The Street Van group was established to help mitigate the dangers faced by some people at night. Lew recounts how “a group of us decided we had to do something about the street problem in Palmerston North. I had kids, and I didn’t want my young kids growing up like that”.

Nearly 20 years later, Lew feels that the service is still vital, and if anything there are more reasons to be doing it now. The organisation has expanded hugely, now operating three Street Vans with 180 volunteers. Lew has been thrilled with the way students have also got involved, with Massey University and UCOL students now operating their own teams and regularly running the vans. “They came to us, the students themselves. They wanted to do something.”

The other side to the organisation is Shepherd’s Rest, which offers low-cost accommodation to anyone in need of a home. Making up a huge portion of Shepherd’s Rest’s tenants are those who would otherwise be homeless, and Lew feels that they do not get the care they need elsewhere.

Street Van“People from out of prison, where do they go? People from out of hospital, where do they go? Someone comes out of a mental health facility, who takes them in? No-one. So that’s why we take them. No-one wants to know a drug addict or homeless person unless they’re in their own family.

“There are certain people whom we won’t take back, mainly
because their actions have affected other residents. But other
than that, we never say no.”

The Street Van and Shepherd’s Rest are more than just Lew’s passion. His wife Meriam and two oldest children, Sarah and John, are all volunteers, and Sarah also runs youth groups teaching children about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. “My kids grew up around the silo, around alcoholics and drug addicts. They have never gotten drunk and they never do drugs, so there you go. They’ve seen it, they know what happens.”

Some would question the wisdom of putting your children into these situations, but Lew strongly disagrees. “People say, ‘How can you let your daughter be close to them?’. My daughter feels totally safe around these people; if anyone so much as looked at her they’d get smacked.” Far from a threat, the people Lew has met through the Street Van and Shepherd’s Rest have become surrogate family members. Lew laughingly tells how a few years ago his daughter “went to the pictures and was with a boy. I had four drug addicts ringing up to tell me my daughter was out”.

At the end of the day, Shepherd’s Rest and the Street Van can be best summarised by Lew as, “Sometimes, it’s just about doing something nice”.

Steve Maharey

The Man Behind the “Power House”

It has been four decades since Steve Maharey crossed the bridge across the Manawatu River from Palmerston North to enrol at Massey. Back then Steve was enjoying life, but thought becoming a student might lead to even more interesting opportunities. Today the sociology senior lecturer turned cabinet minister is in his second term as the University’s Vice-Chancellor. When Steve talks about the transformative power of education, and education as “a long-term passport not a short-term visa”, it is his personal experience he is drawing on.

As Vice-Chancellor, Steve presides over a substantial enterprise. Massey University, which this year celebrates its 50th year as an autonomous degree-granting institution, has three campuses, 3,000 staff, 35,000 students – with around 17,000 of them studying through New Zealand’s longest-established distance learning programme – and a multitude of research alliances, here and overseas.

Steve MahareyThe result, for Steve, is a life that is a whirlwind of meetings, openings, speeches and interviews, and a frequent flier’s schedule of international obligations. He makes himself determinedly available, but even so he sees himself as a transitional figure. “I try to travel to the three campuses, but eventually it will defeat someone. If the game plan comes off, Massey will become a global player.”

It will also, if Steve has his way, play a significant role in creating a better, more prosperous “new New Zealand”. Hence initiatives such as FoodHQ, which, with the support of the Palmerston North City and Manawatu District Councils, is creating a super campus comprising AgResearch, AsureQuality, Fonterra, Massey University, Plant & Food Research, the Riddet Institute and the Bio Commerce Centre.

If New Zealand is to hit the Government’s target of having food exports reach $60 billion by 2025 – trebling 2009’s result – Massey’s input as a “science power house” will be key.

FoodHQ will principally draw on the expertise held in Massey’s College of Sciences and College of Health, but Steve is also sure that the University’s Colleges of Business, Creative Arts, and Humanities and Social Sciences will have a role to play in making Massey “the engine of the new New Zealand”.

“You need an environment in which people want to constantly stretch themselves.”

As a former sociologist, Steve has a particular fondness for the humanities and social sciences. These disciplines are areas he thinks have been unfairly neglected in recent times.

“I think the humanities and social sciences have a lot to offer, informing social policy, creating effective, competent citizens in a democratic society, promoting critical thought, and helping people to live full and satisfying lives.” In late 2013 the University launched the WH Oliver Humanities Research Academy to boost research in the humanities.

Managing such a large and varied organisation is not a simple task. A commercial enterprise would allow for more direct management. In a university, things are not so simple. “Good universities pride themselves on their independent academic staff,” says Steve. “Management needs to be light-handed and
strategically focused.

Massey University“You need an environment in which people want to constantly stretch themselves,” says Steve. Once you have that, it is simply a matter of “running along behind them and
being supportive”.

Away from Massey, Steve tries to keep active. “Our dog manages to get us out of the house for a walk every day. That provides some fitness for mountain biking and tramping”.

Every year he and his wife Bette try to tick off another adventure. “I used to do one long mountain bike race or something like that, but in the past few years we’ve done the Milford, Tongariro, Queen Charlotte and other shorter tracks.”

Mountain biking was something he took up “during my midlife crisis”; tramping was at Bette’s insistence. “I have to say it is one thing I never thought I would do,
sleeping in huts. I think, you know, if there are perfectly good hotels, why are we staying in a hut? But I actually enjoy it now; I enjoy the whole camaraderie of meeting other people, cooking your food and sitting there in the dark at night time. I think it’s fantastic. I can’t believe I’ve left it so long.”