Category Archives: Issue 5


The Flower Fashionista

Kelsey’s career began with her selling handmade clothing on the internet at the age of 16. Slowly over time this developed into custom bridalwear, and lead to her earning a Bachelor of Fashion from UCOL by the age of 18. “I would sew all my orders on my lunch breaks at Uni,” she remembers.

Being a designer, businesswoman, pattern maker, and seamstress is all in a day’s work for 23 year old Kelsey Genna, work which she says is “honestly my dream job”.

Kelsey GennaHer career has grown “very slowly”, which is something Kelsey is grateful for. “It takes a long time, especially starting young, to really figure out your niche and how you want something to work. Figuring out how to live a really balanced life whilst thriving in your career also took me quite a while.”

Founded in 2012, Kelsey’s bridal label The Flower Bride has been brought to life through floral and nature inspired components. While Kelsey is based in Manawatu, her label is stocked in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchuch and is also established in major centres around the world including Los Angeles, New York and London.

Kelsey has also recently designed and released a new Kelsey Genna activewear range, which she says was inspired by travelling to Indonesia.

I think following your dreams is a beautiful thing but I think it also takes so much more dedication, patience and hard work than anyone realises.

“I spent some time in Bali last year and fell in love with Ubud, a small town up in the forests. It’s a really creative town and there is also a big organic, raw food and yoga culture there. It seems to represent everything I want my activewear brand to be about. I’m spending the next few months based there setting up my activewear line… it’s an inspiring place to be.”

Sold exclusively online, her activewear range incorporates fashion and sport through a variety of unique designs and vibrant printed fabrics.

FAshion in the cityAs well as designing, Kelsey relishes having the opportunity to travel. “I love travelling which is why I’ve tried to incorporate it into my work as much as possible. I find travelling from place to place a little annoying though, which is why I usually try to base myself somewhere for 1­2 months at a time. As long as I keep super organised I find living out of a suitcase really easy.”

This year looks to be a busy one, but Kelsey is excited about the work ahead. “I’m going to be juggling my time between my bridal and activewear, this is my first year working on two big projects. While I am in Bali I will be setting up a base for my activewear and also designing a new bridal collection. I’ll spend a little bit of time tripping around Asia fabric sourcing too, and then I plan to head to New York for the Bridal Market in October.”

It takes a long time, especially starting young, to really figure out your niche and how you want something to work.

While this year is well planned out, Kelsey doesn’t have many solid plans for the future. “Life is ever changing and I’m happy to just see where it takes me. I’m just happy to keep slowly growing. As much as I love my job it is just one part of my life.”

“I think following your dreams is a beautiful thing but I think it also takes so much more dedication, patience and hard work than anyone realises.”

Shaaanxo at home

Shaaanxo – YouTube Sensation

Almost five years ago Shannon Harris picked up a camera and started talking. With more than one million YouTube subscribers to date, she has become ingrained in the social media video blogging, or vlogging, sphere and has created for herself the household name Shaaanxo.

Tea timeWhen a hobby turns into a full-time job you know you are on to a good thing. “I didn’t even know you could make a living off YouTube,” says Shannon. “One day I got an email from YouTube saying ‘We want to start monetising your content’ and I thought, ‘Is this spam?’ I just used my vlog as a hobby to meet new people who had the same interests as me.”

Shannon’s blogs are the most subscribed and viewed online shows for fashion and beauty in New Zealand. Through her YouTube channel the Palmerston North beauty teaches anyone with an internet connection all about the world of makeup and fashion. She also lends advice on cooking, exercise and wellbeing. If this weren’t enough, she also has her own ‘xoBeauty’ business line, all of which is just in a day’s work for the 22 year old.

I don’t think YouTube is ever going to fade away, it’s taking over

The secret to her success is something even Shannon can’t quite put her finger on. “I don’t really know. I try to be myself and that comes off quite genuine I suppose, rather than trying to be scripted or professional because I’m not a professional or a makeup artist, I’m just another girl in her bedroom doing makeup. I just try to be positive and happy. I think people like seeing happiness.”

Face of success“No one else I knew really liked makeup that much, so YouTube was a good outlet. I didn’t really have any goals at first, but I guess now it’s educating people about makeup in New Zealand because it’s not really a huge thing here. I’m just trying to inspire other people.”

The constant stream of videos, photos and updates is anything but ordinary and is inspired predominantly by feedback from her followers. “I like to cover a lot of different things so that it’s interesting all the time. A lot of my ideas are from my viewers; I’ll ask them for inspiration or what they want to see. That’s a huge part because obviously you want them to watch it.”

When working from home Shannon enjoys the flexibility of being able to “do whatever I feel like doing on that day”. “On a typical day I usually go straight to my computer and answer all my business emails; I get on average about 150 a day. Then I jump into filming and try to film one or two videos. In the afternoon I like to sit back and start some editing, do some social media updates and post photos that I’ve taken.”

XO Beauty brushes“I have a separate room from where I film, which is different from my bedroom, but sometimes I’ll cart my computer out into the lounge and edit there just so it’s different, because it gets a bit hectic just working in the same area all the time.”

Her booming business, xoBeauty, is a professional brush and lash company that was developed in October 2012. “Makeup brushes are one of my favourite things because they are underrated in New Zealand. It is really hard to find good quality at a cheap price, so I thought there was a gap in the market. False eyelashes are something I just really love and I found I had so much fun designing them. It was just one of those things that came naturally to me.”

I try to be myself and that comes off quite genuine I suppose, rather than trying to be scripted or professional

At such a young age, Shaaanxo is taking her career one step at a time. “I can see myself doing what I’m doing throughout the majority of my life, but maybe not the exact same thing as what I’m doing right now. There is always room to do videos no matter where I am in life.”

At work“I also want to really focus on my business. As a hobby vlogging will always be there. I don’t think YouTube is ever going to fade away, it’s taking over. You are always going to get negative people so you’ve just really got to look past that and focus on positive people.”

Her advice to others is mainstream, but sincere. “Just follow your dreams. For me I was just your typical Palmy girl who didn’t have any special treatment or anything. I always knew I wanted my own business one day but never really knew what I wanted to do. I love makeup and doing makeup so I found an opening for my own opportunity. There is always a way.”

Craig Kawana

Shaping our Culture

With a shed located deep in the heart of Ashhurst, Craig Kawana is creating history through his commissioned carvings for Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge.

When the call was put out for projects to beautify Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge, traditional Maori carvings to decorate the entranceway were a popular choice. Five months on, Craig Kawana, from Rangitāne/Ngati Apa and Muaupoko iwi, is using his talent and expert knowledge of Rangitāne carving style to craft stunning works of art.

CarvingDeciding to leave his job at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa to take up the full-time project of uplifting Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge was not a simple choice for Craig. “It was a bit of a leap of faith, or should I say a jump. I was a bit over teaching and I wanted to get back to being hands on. It was a good
opportunity. I was doing my Masters and doing contract work as well and it was overwhelming. Something was going to give.” Craig also saw it as an opportunity to get back to ‘Rangitāne-tanga’ and immerse himself in work that celebrated his culture. “Every iwi has their own style of carving. This project is about the survival of the Rangitāne art form, so that it survives into the future.”

Carving has been part of Craig’s life for a long time, with it becoming his career of choice from the age of 14 years. While he was attending Awatapu College, his teacher, Waana Davis, now the Toi Māori Chairperson, recognised his hankering to learn more about his culture. “She took a group of us up to Pahiatua College. I walked into this room and there was a group of Māori carving and it was the first time that I had ever seen Māori carving by Māori. The feeling hit me like a brick wall and I have been chasing that feeling ever since. It was the first connection I had to my culture.”

That sense of connection is an intrinsic part of Craig’s work, and he hopes his carvings will enable people to make personal connections with the land and learn about its ancestral and cultural history. He has dubbed his Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge project Te Hono nga Maunga. “Hono means joining and nga Maunga means the meeting of the mountains, because that is where the carving is going, right between the two peaks at the entranceway.”

The feeling hit me like a brick wall and I have been chasing that feeling ever since. It was the first connection I had to my culture

Staying inspired is made easier thanks to Craig’s workspace, a shed in Ashhurst Domain that sits atop a historic fort site. “This area here used to be a pā site. Otangaki is the name of this place. It means to pull out the weeds and prepare the land for cultivation.

“For me it is a positive name. I have turned my life around. I was teaching and I got rid of that and came out here. I can do Rangitāne-tanga. That’s the thing for me. I can do Rangitāne style, Rangitāne stories, Rangitāne histories for the future of our great-grandchildren. This is my way of setting up Rangitānetanga to leave a legacy that they can take and learn.”

The shed has also become a hidden attraction for visitors to Manawatu, offering New Zealanders and international tourists the chance to see a true Māori carver at work. Craig has also created a display of other iconic cultural items, like a taonga pūoro (Māori trumpet).

Tools of the trade“We had Chinese delegates who came to visit on behalf of UCOL. They were looking at the viability of bringing Chinese university students to study in Palmerston North. The tutors didn’t know what to do with them, so one of my mates suggested they bring them out here. They loved it. He said that it was worth millions to UCOL and you just sealed the deal for us. Now they are going to have people coming out here to study and learn more about our culture.”

“Let’s tell the stories of the Gorge. It’s not just Rangitāne stories; it’s everybody’s stories – Scandinavian stories, Pākehā stories and immigrant stories. Rangitāne stories are not where it ends. Closer to today there are other people’s stories that have developed. You have to tell everyone’s stories so that they can connect to the place. It becomes special for everyone.”

Karl and his library

Living for the Moment

Growing up, Karl and Rebekah had very separate goals in life. She wanted to be an artist, he a pilot. However, after they met at Victoria University, where they both were studying, they flatted together and, as Karl puts it, “didn’t stay strangers for long”.

Karl and RebekahAfter Karl graduated with a degree in English, and Rebekah with one in Cultural Psychology, they decided it was time to experience more of the world. “In the space of one night we quit our jobs, packed up our stuff and were heading to America,” says Rebekah.

Five years passed, and in that time they settled in the small Charlestown community of West Virginia. “We found ourselves living on 350 acres of land in an old-school Washington family home,” Karl remembers.

Focusing on sustainable living, Karl and Rebekah set up community gardens from scratch coupled with roaming chickens and goats, cooking great food and practising yoga. “We took it upon ourselves to try something different.” Following the success of their unique lifestyle, the couple decided to establish an internship programme, which gave interested people the opportunity to work hard and live off the land. “It was such a good place to learn different things because we saw so much potential. We explored ideas from scratch and it became a testing ground for a lot of other projects we have today.”

Two years ago Karl and Rebekah felt it was time to return home. Having arrived back in New Zealand, Karl bumped into an old friend of his. “He was looking to start up a glam rock tribute band in Palmerston North and I said ‘Sure why not!’”

That’s one of the great things about this area; you can live in the country but still have the benefits of a city at your fingertips

Having grown up in Manawatu, Rebekah saw it as a fantastic opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. Moving to a dairy farm just out of town, Karl gained a greater understanding of living close to the environment and with nature. “That’s one of the great things about this area; you can live in the country but still have the benefits of a city at your fingertips.”

Now well and truly settled, a day-in-the-life is still far from traditional for both Karl and Rebekah. Rebekah is a trained teacher in healing and yoga and is also a Zero Balancing practitioner. “Zero Balancing is a system that works with the bones. Bones hold a lot of tension, so it is important to relieve this through movement and the holding of specific points.”

Rebekah splits her time between Library booksNew Zealand and America, where she teaches workshops, yoga classes and therapy sessions. “It suits my understanding of the world. I enjoy learning and teaching a system where the body and mind work together. Sharing in the excitement of seeing the joy on my clients faces when that pain is relieved is priceless.”

Meanwhile Karl operates the state-of-the-art Palmerston North City Library book bus, which he says he stumbled upon by “pure luck”. “I saw the value of learning to drive larger vehicles, so I got my class-2 licence and found a job that combined my love of English and driving really well!”

The mobile library houses more than 100 books and travels to districts around the area serving anyone with a hunger for reading and fun. “I love the variety of personal relationships that I have created. It is amazing how close you can get to some people through what they share with you,” says Karl.

“One day a child stopped dead in his tracks and asked if I was magic. I said, ‘Yeah of course I am!’ As he walked off under his breath I heard, ‘I knew you were magic’. Giving people something to remember, nurturing curiosities and making those connections make me know it is worthwhile.”

In the space of one night we quit our jobs, packed up our stuff and were heading to America

During the time they have together during the year, Karl and Rebekah spend their time “talking until the cows come home”. “We both have enquiring minds, so we chat all about the philosophies of the world. If we go and see a movie you can guarantee we will talk about it for three hours afterwards.”

Managing Rebekah’s time between America and New Zealand has its benefits for the couple. “It is a chance for us to broaden our horizons,” says Rebekah. “I have grown up with my time split between the two countries, so I have my ways of dealing with everything. I travel with the fruits of the season because when it’s ripe it is awesome, like the papaya in Maui and the feijoas in New Zealand. I tend to follow the ripe avocados of the seasons.”

Karl and his library busKarl agrees that although being apart can be hard, it is a great opportunity to recharge. “I refuse to be caught in the codependent phase of a relationship. Although I can’t do what Rebekah does, we have modern technology to help us and I’ll just take the avocados when I can get them.”

For this year Rebekah will be back in New Zealand in December, while Karl will be on the book bus and practising with his band for the upcoming wedding season.

The future is a blank canvas for the two, who believe that maintaining flexibility in life leads to great things. “The world is changing really quickly. We live in a dream world with the ability to go wherever the wind takes us.”

Torn apart

A passion for the hard issues

UCOL photography student Amy Fowler is in a unique position. She has just won the Epson-New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography’s Student Photographer of the Year award for the second year in a row. It is the first time in the award’s history that this has occurred, and Amy says she is still speechless regarding her double win. “The other finalists were so amazing, I just don’t know how they managed to pick. It has been an absolutely overwhelming, crazy period.”

Parents living through their childrenAmy picked up Gold Awards for both of her competition photographs this year. The first, showing a woman ripped in half by ropes, represents “being torn apart by the gender equality issue of women being split between motherhood and their careers”. The second, a bald girl covered in heavy makeup, highlights “how parents try to live through their children by pushing them into something they may not want to do”, and is considered by Amy to be “one of my strongest images”.

Both pieces were created to stimulate discussion, and are centred on wider societal issues. “The images were very personal things that, at the time, I was very passionate about,” explains Amy. “I hit hard on issues that are happening at the moment but otherwise I just try to produce fine art. I trawl the internet for all sorts of different artists and collaborations that inspire me.”

Amy FowlerThis passion is a driving force behind Amy’s work, and is one she has had for most of her life. “Mum had a film camera and I was always the centre of that camera’s lens. I was inspired by that.”

Now, with her Bachelor of Applied Visual Imaging degree almost finished, Amy is working hard to complete a final yearlong assignment, which requires her to write her own brief and create a collection of fine art. “The eight pieces are in the theme of Grimm fairy tales. I am trying to work through the bumps of it, like the backgrounds, the models, the makeup artists and the costumes.”

Torn Apart - full versionAlso requiring her attention is her and her partner Kelvin’s new retouching photography company, Novo Retouching. The business specialises in photography and video post-production editing, and has been running for a year. Amy is also looking to expand in the future. “After I graduate I would like to start a photography side of the business and work together. Long term I would love to be in an advertising agency.”

With so many projects and so much potential for the future, it is easy to understand why Amy says, “Photography is literally my life”.

Sam and his pack

Top Dog – The Pack Life

He’s 22 years old with a 100% success rate. While some may call him the ‘dog whisperer’ he sees it rather as maintaining a balanced state of mind between you and man’s best friend.

“I don’t consider what I do as having a gift for dogs, I consider it as being gifted at being calm. Dogs like calm energy, so they naturally gravitate towards following a leadership structure,” Sam Alderdice says.

Happy dogHaving grown up with dogs, Sam decided he didn’t like the idea of a traditional nine to five workday. Combining his love for the loyal canine and the knowledge he had gained from his overseas travels, he created his dream job.

“I started walking dogs in packs when I was younger, which led to people asking me for help, so I contacted a few people to get more skills, and more pack experience, but no one in New Zealand does what I do.”

Having travelled to third-world countries at a young age, Sam developed a strong understanding of the natural dog pack structure. By watching and studying natural pack dominance with off-leash canines, and through energy and body language, he found he was able to communicate with them.

Dogs think in the present. That is what I learn from them, to focus on the now and live in the now, not the future or the past

“There are trainers but I don’t train dogs, I teach their owners to understand them rather than making the dogs listen to them. I don’t have to say ‘come here’ to my dogs because they follow me naturally. Anyone can have that. I just have to teach them it.”

There is no paperwork or degree in what Sam does, rather knowledge and understanding have got him to where he is today and a belief that what he is doing is effective. “My way is a way and is what I consider the most natural way.”

Cesar Millan, a Mexican-American self-taught dog trainer and expert, has given Sam faith in his method of dog psychology. “I have never had any reassurance that I’m doing something right, but then I see him and he’s the best in the world.”

Sam and the pack

“I’m considered old school but dogs haven’t changed, we have evolved but dogs stay the same. They are still 99% wolf; a chihuahua can breed with a wolf and they are still genetically pack animals. If all humans were to disappear right now, dogs would go back to being pack animals.”

‘Every dog can be helped’ is a philosophy that Sam holds true. His daily routine is based around holding sessions to help his pack of six to 12 dogs, including his own Jet and Nashi, achieve a calm state of mind. “We go for a pack walk or a structured walk, which means that the dogs are physically beside or behind me because I’m their leader. I also push my dogs to do really obscure things in order to get them more relaxed and desensitised in every situation.”

Last year Sam voluntarily worked at Rangipo Prison with the inmates to rehabilitate and rehome retired greyhounds. “That was a big confidence booster. I just haven’t had that respect from people because they think, ‘Oh you’re just a kid, I’m not going to listen to you’. But every guy at that prison respected me because they said that the proof was in the pudding.”

I don’t consider what I do as having a gift for dogs, I consider it as being gifted at being calm

Sam also fosters, rehabilitates and rehomes dogs in his personal time. “If a dog has a bad history or has been abused I give them a new name because it gives them a fresh start and a whole new life. When a dog is born it is balanced; a human’s job is to keep it balanced. If you give trust and respect to a dog they will give you loyalty and will protect you with their life.”

The future is looking very optimistic for Sam. “My biggest goal is just to help dogs. Eventually I want to set up my own proper dog psychology centre with my pack of dogs, where people can bring their dogs and where I run classes and seminars.”

“Dogs think in the present. That is what I learn from them, to focus on the now and live in the now, not the future or the past.”


40 Years of Treading the Boards

Forty years is an accomplishment for any business, and for Centrepoint Theatre this accomplishment has become a reality. Artistic Director Jeff Kingsford- Brown and Box Office Manager Vanessa Barnes reflect on Centrepoint’s history and what it is that makes this theatre so special.

First opened in 1974, Centrepoint remains the only professional theatre outside the four major New Zealand centres. It continues to offer quality entertainment to the
hundreds of people who come through its doors.

CentrePoint at nightThe theatre’s Artistic Director, Jeff Kingsford-Brown, has made an effort to remain in touch with Centrepoint’s origins and happily tells the story of how it began. “At that time there was a feeling that people wanted to see themselves on the stage, and they wanted to express their culture. There were these little theatres popping up around the country and Palmerston North and Centrepoint was part of that movement, not just in theatre, but in art and culture generally.”

“It was a very different scene in many ways, it was just faltering steps. They didn’t receive any funding from central government, it was all local money, so it was tough. They were doing it professionally, even though there was no training ground. They were doing it the best

This passion is what sustained an early Centrepoint, and it remains the lifeblood of this now thriving theatre. Vanessa Barnes, Centrepoint’s Box Office Manager, is a perfect representative of this. Vanessa is a longstanding Centrepoint fixture, having been “roped into helping out” when she was in high school and now, years later, has never left and works full time with the theatre.

My job is to make sure that those people’s one shot is the best experience possible.

One of the keys to Centrepoint’s success, in Vanessa’s mind, is its focus on telling the stories of New Zealand’s multicultural community. “We do Pasifika plays and we have more focus on the Kiwi playwrights. Last year we did Two Fish and a Scoop, which was about a Chinese New Zealander and a British New Zealander, so that’s not your average story. We are trying to reflect all the different people within the community and then trying to draw those people to the theatre.”

However, audience attendance is not limited to performing good stories, and cultivating the right attitude is also vital in Jeff’s and Vanessa’s minds. “The thing that Centrepoint prides itself on is that we are quite welcoming, we’ve got quite a… it sounds really cheesy but a family vibe,” laughs Vanessa.

Jeff and Vanessa

“We don’t want to be intimidating and we don’t want people to think that you have to be posh, or that it’s for your grandparents. Really our target audiences is everybody. We want everyone to come and see Kiwi theatre.”

“It is something we have worked consciously on creating, breaking down that barrier of ‘theatre is something you have to dress up for’, that you have to have a lot of money for. We want everyone to give it a go, especially young people.”

Theatre for a younger audience was also the inspiration for Centrepoint’s secondary theatre, The Dark Room, which was started in 2007. “At the time there was a group of people working here at Centrepoint who were younger and very much focused on wanting to have theatre that they would go and see.” The first Dark Room was “set up in the back of the theatre, in what is actually our rehearsal room”, but in its current form it is located across the road in a space provided by Te Manawa. The Dark Room has developed into something “slightly more risky and alternative”, and now regularly hosts new emerging artists and various performance groups.

Great effort goes into ensuring that the experience of these artists is an enjoyable one, as Centrepoint is “often giving them their first chance at a proper professional gig”. “Part of our brief is to use emerging artists in a meaningful way – actors, designers, directors occasionally,” explains Jeff.

Actors often comment that, when joining Centrepoint, they feel like they have been welcomed into a living room

“It is up to us, it’s our responsibility to make sure they have as good a time as they can, quite apart from the work,” adds Vanessa. “Actors often comment that, when joining Centrepoint, they feel like they have been welcomed into a living room, they like hanging out here.”

However, running a business that is entirely reliant on its talent does lend itself to some nerve-racking close calls. “Last year we had a group scheduled who suddenly pulled out, they were heading to Edinburgh or Toronto. Then you have holes in your programme suddenly,” says Jeff.

“It’s just the nature of theatre, it happens with actors as well,” says Vanessa. “You can have an actor all lined up and then they get offered another job, or get really sick, and then you have to get someone in at the very last minute. But the show always happens. It’s never not happened, in my time at least. Touch wood!”

Exit stage left

While it is challenging, Vanessa is eager to point out the enjoyable aspects of their work, which she summarises as “ample opportunities to explore the theatre in all its weird glory”.

“I have to remind myself that we get to see both sides, and that we are quite privileged to get to see the magic happen. People who come to see it get one shot to see the play, and that’s it. That’s their night out, that’s their magical experience.

They don’t get the privilege to just pop their head into the rehearsal room. My job is to make sure that those people’s one shot is the best experience possible.”

Pencil Art

Builder’s Pencil Turned Artwork

Collecting old builders’ pencils isn’t something you would expect from a diesel mechanic, but for Dave Ashburn his hobby is paying off.

His other interests include hunting and fishing, but creating intricate art from pencils “leaves everybody quite surprised”. Dave carefully carves the lead of each pencil he collects into a single letter. These letters are then put together to create quotes and unique sayings that mean something to him.

Finished masterpieceHis latest piece depicts the quote ‘Friendship isn’t a big thing; it is a million little things’.

The idea, Dave says, is something that he simply stumbled upon. “I was looking at photos of a similar thing done online with a conventional pencil for my sister-in-law’s wedding gift, and I thought I would use a builder’s pencil instead because it is bigger and easier to use and it worked. Everyone loved it
because it was not something to be expected from me.”

Now on to his fourth piece, he still doesn’t consider what he does as art. “Although my family are quite arty I really have no artistic background.”

The process is long but worth it in Dave’s eyes. He begins by outlining a quote that he likes the look of. Using a vet’s hypodermic needle with a sharp edge he carefully crafts the holes of the lettering on each pencil. A craft knife is then manipulated to create a rounded finish.

“Each pencil takes about 40 minutes to complete and you’d be surprised at how rough you can be with them. It is a balancing act though, between the different thicknesses of graphite in an older and a newer pencil.”

One of Dave’s bigger challenges when crafting is working with graphite. “Graphite is such a bizarre material. It goes everywhere but is so easy to wash off.”

There are some letters that Dave tries to avoid. “I like curving the S and the O but I hate the N and M. I’m a perfectionist, so if one doesn’t look good I have to start again.”

While working on his second piece, his wife, Megan, thought Dave’s work deserved more credit. She took it into Palmerston North gallery Taylor-Jensen Fine Arts, who were simply “blown away”.

Stuart Schwartz, Managing Director of the gallery, has Dave’s work framed and on display for sale.

For a local man like Dave, having Stuart on board means a great deal. “The attention I have received through my work would not have been possible without someone like Stu.”

Craftsman at work“I don’t care whether what I do sells or not, I enjoy doing them because it is a break in the cycle. I can’t carve a bird or a face or anything, so it really is quite a foreign and unusual experience for me. Quite frankly I will be glad if someone liked my artwork enough to buy it,” he says.

Dave has some big ideas planned for the future. “I would love to make an entire village out of the pencils. I want to begin with buildings and houses through a square design and see where it goes from there.”

Although it may appear that the art and detail are appreciated up close, Dave enjoys looking at what he does from a distance. “When hung up on a wall, they look really good.”

Dave encourages anyone who has a spare builder’s pencil lying around to contact him because, unfortunately, he doesn’t have an endless supply. “I have resorted to buying new pencils and trying to make them look old and chewed but it just isn’t the same.”

Ben Vanderkolk

The Business of Doing Justice

When questioned about the theoretical glass of half full, or half empty, water, Ben Vanderkolk’s answer is that, “half is never going to be good enough”. As the Crown Solicitor for Palmerston North, head of his own legal practice and a vital part of numerous community groups, Ben’s life is a testament to striving for more.

Office doorDespite his meteoric success, Ben remains a down-to-earth person, as “you can take the boy off the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the boy”. What fuels his driven nature are a true passion for and enjoyment of what he does. “Work’s a bit of a hobby for me. I find simple things amuse me.”

“What I like about the job is the strength of the victims. They’re offended against, they probably live in disadvantaged situations, a lot have very poor schooling, they don’t have any confidence to be articulate, or to truly resist being abused, and then you expect them to be articulate and polished and be in command of the situation in a courtroom. When they manage to pull it off it’s just the most rewarding thing.”

We’re not in the business of results, we’re in the business of doing justice

For some the life of a criminal prosecutor would be challenging, but Ben is “quite cheerful about it”. “I’m very good at compartmentalising, I don’t dwell on the bad things really. You feel your losses but only for a very short time, if you don’t have a good result. But then we’re not in the business of results, we’re in the business of doing justice.”

Outside work there is also much to be done, and Ben is regularly involved in a number of additional groups and organisations, including the Massey University and UCOL councils and, previously, the Netherlands Foundation. Ben is particularly active in his role as the Trust Chairman for Manfeild Park. As someone who raced classic cars in his younger years, working with an events centre that comes complete with a race track circuit is a pleasant pastime, but for Ben his purpose goes much deeper.

Ben“My involvement with Manfeild Park, when I was asked to participate, just struck me as an opportunity to grow something in the region. It’s been a pretty hard road and there have been some battles, but overall I’m still persuaded about its contribution. We’ve created a community asset.”

The role has not always been smooth sailing, but Ben remains positive about the experience. “I’ve learnt a lot about the community and local body politics, so I’m grateful for that because it influences the way you think and do things. I like to think I’ve improved my attitude towards them. I’m pretty determined and driven about these sorts of things, which doesn’t always fit well with the community.”

One of Ben’s most significant personal projects has been his efforts to bring some of the best up-and-coming lawyers to the region, something he continues to focus on. Over the last 30 years he has brought more than 25 lawyers to Palmerston North, all of whom have been “handpicked by the law schools”. “The essence of Manawatu, I think, is that I’ve been able to create really good attraction and retention employment practices, which means I always get first-class people,” he says.

Everywhere you go it feels like people are doing something creative and successful

“What I say to them, when they come here, is that they’ll be well ahead of their peers… The experience to be gained in Manawatu, as far as my lawyers are concerned, is ahead of their peers for the rest of the country. They choose to be here.”

Ben also believes that Manawatu has a lot to offer in the wider sense, as “everywhere you go it feels like people are doing something creative and successful”. For his incoming lawyers a big part of its attraction is not just the work opportunities, but the opportunities for families.

Ben and his team“What captures them immediately is that all the schools here are really high quality, and that’s really important to young people who are about to be parents. That’s the most important concern for families I think, at least it was in my experience. All my children have gone through school here.”

Having just seen his newest protégés, Nicola Wynne and Michael Blaschke, admitted to the bar, Ben is now looking towards the future and new challenges, and will no doubt be keeping in mind a piece of advice he once gave to Manfeild. “Do whatever it takes to keep everything in place, the commitment, the vision, the energy, and start looking for the next opportunity.”

Stephen and Mary Barr

To your family, from ours

At a glance this family farm is no different from any other dairy farm, but Stephen and Mary Barr are making a name for Arran Farm thanks to their quirky new on-site milk shop.

The cows coming home to here are unique, and are a key part of the shop’s success. Most dairy farming cows carry the standard A1 gene, producing the ordinary A1 milk that is sold in stores. However, Arran Farm breeds rare A2 cattle, which produce milk that contains the purest form of milk protein and is found by some to assist in resolving or limiting allergic reactions such as eczema. This milk is then sold through their milk shop, as Stephen Barr says, “ready to drink the way nature intended”.

Fresh MilkStephen and Mary started out in Taranaki and farmed there for more than 15 years before they bought a Manawatu farm in 1998. Taking advantage of the opportunities found here, Arran Farm has grow from 150 acres to 1200 acres and the new milk shop is heralding a new era, with the farm becoming a centre of community activity.

The farm has become a community centre, with the onfarm milk shop’s self-service milk vending machine enabling consumers to fill up their milk bottles as they wish. The Barrs summarise the store’s creation as, “We saw a vending machine in a magazine a few months ago and just went for it”.

However, it was not easy putting the shop in place. A range of challenges arose to ensure they complied with legislation.

Arran Farm operates as a sole trader; Stephen and Mary had to be really careful in their planning, as they were not protected by a company structure. Although this was testing, the Barrs knew they were on to something. “We believe in the milk, we enjoy it and there is a market for it.”

We believe in the milk, we enjoy it and there is a market for it

Having now opened their doors, the Barrs are thrilled with their success. “When we were making the plans for the shop, we didn’t factor in that it is a fun place to come to, because people are actually choosing to come here for the experience,” Mary shares with a smile.

“Our customers refer to it as the village well and there is a whole community that is building around the shop. People of all ages come here: the elderly, families, young people and even concerned mothers who buy milk for their flatting children. It’s a very positive place that seems to make people happy.”

The community support is prevalent, with a wide range of customers frequenting the shop, with people travelling from Palmerston North, Foxton and Levin and even Wellington.

Vending MachineAs the milk cannot be legally transported without pasteurising it, the Barrs are unable to sell the milk away from the farm gate. However, being grounded has been nothing less than beneficial for the community and the farther reaches of the country. A gem has been created in this spot on Taonui Road, near Feilding.

The community cherishes the milk shop and it continues to motivate this family to bring their raw, non-homogenised milk to the people who have grown to love it. “People in the market are always asking, ‘Are you selling enough milk?’ ‘Are you getting enough people?’ They are willing to bring their friends and family to the shop to help ensure the business is sustainable.”

Stephen foresees the shop growing “to be an even bigger part of the farm once we get more customers.” For now, the Barrs are just focused on doing what they do best and to keep offering good milk from their family to yours.