A familiar story told in Hawke’s Bay is of the prodigal son or daughter. BayBuzz is heartened to see many Hawke’s Bay ex-pats returning to the fold with rich experiences and enhanced skills. We ask the ‘returnees’ where did they go, what did they do and what prompted their return.
Sam Howard is a local lad, educated in Hawke’s Bay and then Otago University, where he studied business studies. His wife Kate Wood is a Lower Hutt girl with a strong arts background. They have three children and are thrilled with the life they are creating for their family in Hawke’s Bay.
Sam worked in Wellington as an investment portfolio advisor and three years ago joined his company’s (First NZ Capital) Havelock North office. From here he maintains relationships with customers all over New Zealand, while serving on the boards of the Hawke’s Bay Foundation and the Catwalk Trust.
Living just three minutes from work allows precious family time at the beginning and end of their children’s day, which feels like a gift compared to the 45 minutes travelling time from Brooklyn to Wellington. Their move is “a values proposition” … “It is quality of life that matters,” Sam says.
The community and social life here has rounded off their lives, in particular, the family’s involvement in the Clifton County Cricket Club with its cricket grounds on the Te Awanga farm owned by the Nillson family on Gordon Road.
Sam and Matt Nillson grew up hanging out at the Clifton Cricket Club and remembered the fun days they spent as kids when their parents played social cricket. They had long resolved to revive the club for the benefit of their own families.
Association cricket has the reputation of separating men from their wives and families every weekend over summer; CCCC is not that kind of cricket club. This is a club for families (now with 170 family memberships), where on club weekends the kids hang out together while the adults play and socialise.
CCCC has an outward-looking responsibility to improve the community by collective efforts of the group, including fundraising for priority projects such as conservation. For example, the group works with Department of Conservation and the HB Regional Council on replanting indigenous flora to create wetland feeding grounds for bird species and insect life.
Sam believes this could be a model for the next generation of Service clubs, following on from the great contributions made by Rotary and Lions clubs in past generations, but one which puts the families of members in the centre of activities.
George Williams grew up on the family farm, Aramutu Station out of Elsthorpe in Central Hawke’s Bay. His family is a branch of the long established East Coast Williams clan. He was an only child, “But there was no pressure from Mum and Dad for me to become a farmer so when they retired the farm was sold.” He adds, “Looking back now, I really miss it, but I couldn’t take over the land back then.”
So George studied art and design at EIT, then known as the Hawke’s Bay Polytechnic and became a graphic designer.
He and his wife Nichola lived and worked in Wellington after spending time in London, but after twelve years of being away and with two little girls they felt an overpowering urge to return here to live.
Nicky also grew up in the Bay. They had been away long enough; their parents live here and for their children they wanted what they had experienced themselves. They yearned to come back for the family life, to rekindle relationships with friends and memories of idyllic childhoods with endless summer days.
Returning to Hawke’s Bay, they immediately started to get involved in everything they could and one was to take up membership of the newly re-established Clifton County Cricket Club. Friendships, business conversations, the giving for free of skills and knowledge for the club and community, entertainment, exercise and social interactions, all form rich and deep benefits for George. “The word ‘networking’ does not adequately describe the spontaneous business connections formed in this way,” he says.
Their graphic design business is called Black Dog Design, which operates from the ‘Kennel’ in Pufflett Road. Nicky is the administrator and overall support person to the ‘creative director’, George. Being a sole practitioner, he enjoys the involvement with clients and companies who seek his expertise for their branding and marketing communications.
He’s an artist and printmaker when time allows and he finds the free artistic ideas that emerge are genuinely complementary to the tighter disciplines and design requirements of his regular paid work.
Manager, Boutique Hotel
It was the first day in the job for the new manager of the Mangapapa Petit Hotel. An American guest had made a complaint and then posted a harshly critical report on the TripAdvisor website.
It was a revealing start to his new job, though not typical of feedback from guests who stay here. However, it sharpened the mind of new manager, Nick Judd, who knows he has a job to do. Aged 38, Nick is Havelock North born, educated and raised having recently returned to Hawke’s Bay, primarily for family reasons.
Three weeks into the job, he is all eyes and ears as he begins his familiarisation with the past and present of this boutique hotel, whilst with a clear priority of guest comfort he plans its future.
In November 2013, Judd left a similar management role in an exclusive hotel on Burgh Island on the coast of Devon, a privately owned island that boasts a 25- bedroom Art Deco hotel on 26 acres, and an historic smugglers pub dating back to the 13th century.
The couple who owned the Burgh Island resort had created a culture of sophisticated yet simple hospitality, a retreat offering a cuisine based on seasonal, locally sourced produce. His employers were Nick’s mentors and teachers, providing a mirror to his Kiwi manners and attitudes yet always supportive and encouraging. He stayed seven years and it shaped his ideas on fine hospitality and how to run a cost-efficient business.
Since leaving school he has worked in a variety of jobs – ten years spent in the New Zealand Air Force, at Watties in procurement and product development, and during the ten years he was in Britain, he worked in sales and marketing and hospitality.
“Top-end hospitality is difficult in New Zealand,” he says. “With the overseas recession lingering on, fewer visitors are coming here. Nevertheless, I think it is essential to get back to basics at Mangapapa, to create a home away from home; keep guests warm and comfortable with friendly quiet service; provide healthy food, in season, simply presented with the best Hawke’s Bay has to offer – it’s all about the guests.”
If you’ve come back or know someone else who has, and is making a difference in the Bay, let us know.