Lu2HBC logo in circle
Lu2HBC logo in circle

Linku2 Hibiscus Coast appreciate the contributions given by many by giving their time and/or expertise in helping shape our community into the great place it is.

Our feature this quarter is Janet Fitzgerald. Below we hear, in Janet's words, who she is, what drives her and what she does here on the Coast which helps shape our community.

From a young age Janet was on her way!

Hi, my name is Janet Fitzgerald and I am a Hibiscus and Bays Local Board Member, Auckland Council.

I have lived and worked on the Coast all of my life and am passionate about our community and I have been on different community organisations giving back to the community.

My aim is to make our organisation at the Local Board a more inclusive diverse organisation while keeping the values of community.

I first got involved back in Rodney District Council days when we had a problem getting permission to do something. I attended meetings and found out how the system worked and then decided to stand for Council hoping to make a difference. I believe if you enable people to solve their issues by pointing them in the right direction they can then own the solution.

My biggest project has been Penlink and while I started the Penlink Now Team there have been others involved for some time. My thanks go to those people as a Team around you making a difference. Working with Councils, Central Government and all organisations is not an easy slog but thank goodness we are there and looking forward to Penlink starting in late 2022.

The most rewarding aspect of what I do is being able to help people and getting a result whilst the most frustrating and challenging aspect is the system. Nothing is easy and until you realise this it can be so frustrating so you have to learn the most positive way out for resolving things.

How has your organisation/project developed and what would you like to see in the future?

With regard to our development, Penlink started being discussed when we had 9,000 vehicles a day travelling along Whangaparaoa Road now there are over 30,000. When Penlink is built and ready to go in 2026, into the future I want to see a public transport system that people can use to get more cars off the road. Sometime into the future also a light rail system coming from the city would be a dream.

There is still public consultation to be had around Penlink and I would like as many people as possible to get involved. Tolling will be the next one. If people want to follow the Penlink project they should sign up for the newsletter at Waka Kotahi/Penlink website at

Linku2 Hibiscus Coast appreciate the contributions given by many by giving their time and/or expertise in helping shape our community into the great place it is.

Our feature this quarter is Gaylene Chambers. Below we hear, in Gaylene's words, who she is, what drives her and what she does here on the Coast which helps shape our community.

Gaylene Chambers, Chambers & Co

"My name is Gaylene Chambers our Business is Chambers & Co - Autism Awareness Apparel and Weighted Therapy Blankets.

I am a 47 year old Mother of two, 16 year old daughter and 14 year old son with Severe Autism and Developmental Delays and married to Richard my wonderful husband of 23 years.

I have 30 years experience in Customer Service, and love to help/guide people, a strong advocate for the Disability Sector and helping those that need support in any way possible.

I believe in community compassion and inclusion for all of those touched with Autism Spectrum Disorder in particular (having a son with this condition) as this is an “invisible disability” which requires a lot of understanding, patience and awareness as well.

At Chambers & Co we have a Distinct Apparel range, that I created which has been designed to raise public awareness of the day-to-day challenges that living with Autism brings. From our Whanau to yours - this includes T Shirts and Sweatshirts as well.

We also have Weighted Therapy Blankets and Lap Pads to help support a variety of conditions including -

  • sleep issues associated with insomnia
  • anxiety/stress conditions
  • ADHD/concentration
  • PTSD - fears, night terrors
  • OCD - difficult to “stop” and rest/settle
  • Restless Leg Syndrome

This Holistic and Natural Form of Therapy is proven to reduce symptoms of just SOME of the above mentioned conditions and more not able to mention them all … absolutely naturally. This business was all created by a dream/vision which then turned into a reality, thanks to my dear Father-in Law whom passed away from Cancer. He said “ If you have a dream, follow it, and do it, as you won’t know till you try - you have NOTHING to lose” SO that’s what we did, along with the help and guidance from my husband, we are a team, and we wanted to make a difference in the world which is what we are doing, we have customers in Australia and America even! ITS FAB!

The most rewarding thing for me is being able to help people from all walks of life, whether they have Additional Learning Needs or having trouble sleeping or dealing with stress, I like to support and guide people where I can, with the knowledge I have learnt with my personal journey with our son with Autism.

Chambers & Co

The most challenging thing I find is there are never enough hours in the day to complete all of my “to do list” when you have your own business you are constantly working 24/7 which is great, but it is very hard to STOP ... I wish I could have a “drone” which would be able to take me places quicker in this crazy traffic for deliveries of my products.

As we develop it is important to remember its all about communication, and sharing our story, and others connecting along the way, and being able to help one another. Its great in the community how people share their testimonials of our products and recommend our small business to others in need, awesome.

My business philosophy is to guide people to make the right choice from a variety of options, for example I suggest people “trial” our Weighted Therapy Blankets before they buy them, so they can see, the results they bring to the individuals daily life.

I am involved with a lot of community projects and I also am involved with the Disability Sector and part of the Expo for Disability Connect held on 8th September. Below are details.

And to finish my advice to people is -

Treat People, like you would like them to treat you, be kind, be yourself, be honest and most of all Keep Smiling.

If you have a tough day, it’s ok ... to recognise this, reflect and learn from it …”it’s ok to not be ok”- us SUPER Mummas and Dads think we have to have it ALL together, but that is just NOT humanly possible, having burn out, is not fun ... but to reach out for HELP is key to getting through life’s Storms.

My saying is (being a Mum of a handicapped son)  NOT to take one DAY at a time … but every MINUTE the best way you can ... and BREATHE – Kia Kaha xx"

Linku2 Hibiscus Coast appreciate the contributions given by many by giving their time and/or expertise in helping shape our community into the great place it is.

Our feature this quarter is Caitlin Watson. Below we hear, in Caitlin's words, who she is, what drives her and what she does here on the Coast which helps shape our community.

"My name is Caitlin Watson and I am the Project Manager of Coast Mentoring.

I am a proud born and breed Coastie and passionate about our community on the Coast. My previous role was as a Local Board member on the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board, my main advocacy focus was on supporting services and improving facilities for youth.

Other community projects I have been involved with, is setting up The Hope Shop - a recycled clothing store that supports Youth in Transition. Alongside managing Coast Mentoring, I get to wear another community hat as the community worker for Coast Community Trust.

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Coast Mentoring

Coast Mentoring is a youth mentoring programme for young people between the ages of 10-24 years.

Our young people are referred from counsellors, social workers, police, youth workers, psychologists and schools. Many of these young people may be struggling with mental health issues, life skills, education or lack positive role models. The goal is for the young person to have a positive role model and big buddy to support the young person on their journey. Our team of volunteer mentors are matched with a young person, who they journey alongside for the period of 12 months. Over this time the mentor meets with their young person for 1-2 hours every week, the focus of this time is on building a caring and trusting relationship.

Coast Mentoring is a collaborative project between local youth organisations based in Whangaparaoa. CYC Trust + Youth in Transition recognised the need for a mentoring service in our community. Mentoring has been identified by MSD and extensive mental health studies, to be an effective tool in building resilience and self-esteem in young people. We are also a part of the Upside Youth Mentoring family and excited to be delivering their programme on the Coast. By working together with the community, the Coast Mentoring team believes that we can support, encourage and equip our young people to step into a brighter future!

In my role it is rewarding to hear the stories our mentors share about the fun and wins they are having along the mentoring journey. For example, a young person’s growth in self-confidence, increase in school attendance, stepping outside the comfort zone, learning life lessons, and even the simple act of getting out of the house having fun and trying new activities is a big win for a number of our young people.

Our Challenges

For us, the biggest challenge can be engaging certain young people. For some, having a mentor would be a game changer but unfortunately they aren’t in the right mind-set to be willing to engage with a mentor.

Another challenge is finding male mentors; we have a big demand for young males needing a mentors but not enough males to match them with!

About Us

Coast Mentoring started planning for our programme in May 2020 so we are still a newer project. Since our first mentor recruitment round in July 2020, it has been inspiring to see the support and enthusiasm from many in our community who have put up their hand to journey alongside a young person. In the future we would like to see a strong mentoring culture established on the Coast. Our vision is to see the programme continue to grow so that we can meet the demand for mentors and help our young people feel well supported, loved and cared for.

Please Help

In order to help more young people, we need to grow our team of volunteer mentors. We would love to hear from anyone who has the heart to support a young person on their journey.

In order to sustain and grow our programme, we also require funding support. If anyone would like to consider partnering with us financially then we would love to hear from you."

Linku2 Hibiscus Coast thanks Caitlin for being part of our series and would like to thank her for her contributions to the Coast as a person helping to shape our community.

You can contact Caitlin on 022 594 8848 and find out more about the Coast Mentoring programme at

My name is Theo Simeonidis.  I have a number of organisations and projects with which I am closely associated and enjoy promoting:

  • Convenor of the annual Greek Extravaganza fundraiser for Hibiscus Hospice, organised under the auspices of the Rotary Satellite Club of Orewa-Millwater.  In the four years since I created and organised this event, it has generated $68,000 for Hospice.
  • Chairperson of Silverdale Business, which position I took up in February 2020, just prior to the hit of the COVID-19 lockdown.
  • Area Group Manager of The Networking Group: this is a business networking organisation which has three active local groups, Orewa, Silverdale and Hibiscus Coast, and focuses on helping local businesses connect, improve and grow.

My Background

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The New Zealand-born son of Greek refugee immigrants who came here in 1951 and soon moved to Christchurch, where Theo grew up and went to school and university. “I am proud of having the best of both worlds,” Theo
told us, “The Greek culture – the music, the food, the dancing, the history; and I love having grown up in New Zealand.”

Originally qualified with a Bachelor of Forestry Science (Hons) from Canterbury University and started my career with the NZ Forest Service.  I completed a post-graduate Master of Public Policy degree (Victoria University of Wellington), and from 1987 was company secretary of the NZ Forestry Corporation group of companies. This was start of the commercialisation of State trading departments during the era of “Rogernomics” in the mid-1980s.  That was a fascinating journey, during which I learnt lots from an excellent board of private sector business leaders. After the Government sold off the forests in 1990, I took up the role of Chief Executive of the Cement & Concrete Association, then was appointed Chief Executive of Federated Farmers of New Zealand. 

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This later followed a spell owning and operating my own award-winning hospitality business in Wellington Theo’s Greek Taverna  from 1997 to 2006. 

It was here my wife, Cristina, and I would enjoy performing Greek music and dance. Why do we love performing music? Simply, music is an international language of peace. No matter one's race, ethnicity, politics or socio-economic status, music can touch the heart of anyone and everyone, as it has done for centuries.

After moving to Auckland in 2005, I undertook consultancy work in the communications/Internet industry and then founded UProtectNZ Insurance Services with my wife Cristina.  Since 2012 I have been the driving force behind the growth of UProtectNZ, which has developed strong reputation for providing quality service.

What is your organisation/project and what motivated you to start it?

As a recent resident, having moved to Millwater in late 2015, I was keen to become involved in a local community or service group. The Rotary Satellite Club of Orewa-Millwater offered that opportunity and was considering projects that it could undertake.  I offered to create and organise an annual Greek Extravaganza fundraiser for Hibiscus Hospice which showcases Greek cuisine, beverages, live music and dancing floorshows in traditional costume:  a Greek cultural experience.  The first event in 2017 was a great success and needed to move to larger premises at the Orewa Arts & Events Centre, with a 250-seat capacity.  The annual Greek Extravaganza has now become a very strongly-recognised brand on the Hibiscus Coast and the wider Auckland region, being a total sell-out each year over two months before the event.

What do you find most rewarding about what you do?

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I find it extremely satisfying simply helping people or worthy causes.  I have loved being the driving force behind the annual Greek Extravaganza and to successfully deliver it required working with many volunteers from Rotary, Hospice, local Clubs, colleges etc. It’s enjoyable working with others to help raise funds for such worthy organisations such as Hibiscus Hospice and I feel very privileged to be able to use my Greek culture as a catalyst to do this.

What do you find most challenging/frustrating with what you do?

I don’t find anything challenging or frustrating.  If you know what you are doing, how to schedule events, engage reliable people to work with, and can execute a project through to completion, it’s absolutely exhilarating and very satisfying.  2020 was a challenging year (COVID) but despite this, by careful planning we were blessed with an amazing outcome in raising almost $24,000 for Hospice.

How has your organisation/project developed and what would you like to see in the future?

From its creation in 2017, I have always seen the annual Greek Extravaganza as becoming a well-recognised and widely-supported brand.  We have succeeded in this over the four years it’s been held, and this year’s event in December 2021 will be the 5th.  While the event is promoted each year as the Greek Extravaganza we create a different theme each year in order to showcase different elements of Greek cultural history and create ongoing interest.

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The 2021 theme is already identified and will in due course be announced and publicised.  It will be a theme which resonates profoundly with all New Zealanders and Greeks.

What would you like to promote around your organisation/project?

We have developed our own very successful Internet, website, social media marketing and positioning programme which has seen our last two events sold out 10 weeks and 8 weeks before the event.  Nevertheless, any additional promotional exposure for the event would be appreciated, at the appropriate time in the annual promotional cycle.

 Aside from this, it would be great if the Rotary Satellite Club of Orewa-Millwater can be promoted.  This is a great, informal club, which is not subject to the strictures and constraints of “traditional” Rotary clubs.  It has a great gender mix as well as all ages in its membership.  The club meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month at 7.00pm at The Wade Tavern, Tavern Rd, Silverdale, but members can gather (if they wish) at 6.00pm for a meal/drink to enjoy good companionship before the 1-hour meeting starts at 7.00pm. Contact:  Secretary Caroline Wilding 027 748 0512.

My motto? "When I'm travelling overseas, I always take my mandolin with me as interpreter. It speaks every language on Earth".

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Featuring: Suzanne Booth, Hibiscus Coast Youth Centre - Hibiscus and Bays

The current Executive Director of the HBCYC, Suzanne Booth, is an experienced manager. Previously a senior executive for Ansett and Qantas National Airports and In-flight Services, she also served Rodney District Council as Manager Service Delivery for District Assets and Facilities, General Manager Waiwera Thermal Spa and Resort and managed Gulf Harbour Country Club out of receivership. She matches her commitment to youth development and the Centre’s mission, commencing in 2009, Suzanne sought out to avoid insolvency action at the Centre. After 2 weeks analysis, and business planning, she convinced the board and Auckland Council to pursue success for the youth in the district by re-building a ‘Safe Space for Youth’ – Keith Morris’s vision.

Suzanne and youth worker, Dan

The HBCYC now provides mentoring, safe spaces to hang out, and youth services with over 1,000 connections each week, directly improving youth and community health, safety and wellbeing. Suzanne secures funding of over $400K per annum, to support a fast-paced organisation operating at minimal costs. She is motivated to keep this organisation well presented, compliant and funded so the community can continue to benefit from the positive results in collaboration with so many organisations, parents and schools. The Centre is moving forward with a very specific strategic plan, which is anticipated to help with a more sustainable financial position over the next 2 years, alongside the experiences of their Executive Committee. They are excited to bed down a position that supports the future population growth and give the HBC Youth Centre a long term future.

All the team and volunteers work consistently, and tirelessly to achieve the best outcomes for all youth. Suzanne says, “I am proud of the people I work with to achieve the positive effects for not only youth but their whanau as well. The task is difficult, although we work as a team, supporting each other and most importantly not judging those struggling with their own health, financial status or wellbeing. Working with these people and the supporting community and organisations that support our youth’s future success is the most rewarding part of this role. Together we can do it…..”

Suzanne has worked as a senior executive with up to 1000 staff in multitask roles and found them exciting and challenging. The work undertaken under a Charity Status, is the same as any other business although it is assumed should be operated with mainly volunteers and is more difficult to manage with the minimal staff, multitasking of everyone’s roles, training to deliver a high level of governance verses achieving the most important outcomes for our youth. Expert senior roles are hard to fund and are vital for the success of the HBC Youth Centre. These people must be passionate about youth, experienced, reliable and mostly financially rewarded for their roles. Our community is not in a position mostly, to offer their expert time without being paid. Securing funds for these roles is difficult as the funds the Centre raises need to go into the demand for services for our youth.

Suzanne advises, “We have improved delivering to the demand for service with visitation increasing from 240 per week, 8 years ago to now over 1000 per week. Receiving the current level of operational support from many funders ensures this demand for service can be maintained, assisted by 90 to 240 hours of volunteer time per week and delivered at a very low expense level in comparison.”

Approximately 70% of the Centre’s services are FREE to youth, families AND the community. They are more than a preventative mental health program provider, and provide a spiderweb of prevention services that has become the linchpin for many collaborative organisations, from local businesses to Central Government, helping achieve success for youth. The stories are broad, varied and many.

The Centre must raise over $450K per annum to meet the current level of service. At the moment, they raise 1/3 of that themselves now ($24K, 8 years ago), and the rest is through donations and grants. 

Sustainability financially is elusive considering the FREE nature of services provided, reflected in their Constitution and Strategic Objectives. Suzanne says, “We have already significantly improved income as you can see, however, increased demand, increased Free Services, increased costs. - - It is important to accept this business is not like a Leisure Centre where everyone pays a fee, but a large youth facility, open each day, for free, for youth to feel they belong and get support from experienced supervisors while developing youth leaders and future leaders.”

Pride is a huge part of the outcomes for youth. They take pride in their Youth Facility, keeping it clean and tidy. While this is valuable and important, the facility continuously needs upgrading and renewing. There are many areas that require support and help, such as a new roof, upgrading the youth café kitchen, plumbing upgrades, electrical renewals, outside facility water blasting and painting and replacement flooring. The Centre are preparing a full Capex and Renewal replacement program this year and will seek funding. However, if any organisations are looking to give back, the Centre would love to help them do that.

Suzanne comments, “We feel it is very important to acknowledge everyone that helps us help youth, including youth themselves. WE love to tell our story and how individuals can be helped through life or how they can help us help others. This needs a good chat, so come along and have one.”

Featuring: Jo Hayes, Surrogate Grandparents Inc - June 2019

  1. What is your name and the name of your organisation or project?

Jo Hayes

Surrogate Grandparents New Zealand Charitable Trust (CC54933)

  • Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I am a single, ex-pat mum to two beautiful children aged almost 5 and almost 9 and have been living on the Coast for over 6 years. I came to NZ on an OE in 2003 and fell in love with the place, the people and the lifestyle and have now made NZ my home. My family all reside in the UK.

My work background is in Sales, Hospitality, Office Management and the non profit sector.

  • What is your organisation/project and what motivated you to start it?

Surrogate Grandparents connects families with surrogate grandparents to forge long lasting friendships and family bonds.

The idea of Surrogate Grandparents arose from my own personal need for support in raising my children. This became all the more important when I separated from my husband and I had never felt so isolated and lonely. My parents reside in the UK and although visit often, are not there on a day to day basis to help and support me and my kids. What I really needed was a NZ Mum! I was so lucky and blessed to have found one, and not only that, I now have a whole new NZ family.

The difference this made to my life has been astounding, and I realised that connecting families with grandparents and vice versa would actually benefit so many people who, like myself have no parents/grandparents for their children nearby. The Charity was founded in 2017 as a way to support families and prevent social isolation and loneliness of our seniors.

  • What do you find most rewarding about what you do?

The most rewarding thing about what I do is actually connecting the families & grandparents. When you get a perfect match it is fantastic! You really feel like you have made a huge difference in people’s lives, and I have so much feedback to prove this.

I also get to meet some pretty awesome people in doing what I do from our fabulous volunteers through to the social services and others working in the nfp/voluntary sector. All the most amazing, giving and caring people that you could want to meet.

  • What do you find most challenging/frustrating with what you do?

The most challenging thing without a doubt is funding, or rather lack of it! We are not funded to provide the service that we offer, and rely upon donations and currently my bank account. So we are always looking for support in this area from grants, local business and corporate organisations to help us achieve our goals of becoming an intergenerationally connected New Zealand. We’d love to hear from any local or national organisations who would be willing to sponsor/support/partner with us in any way to ensure we can continue to provide this valuable and important service for every generation. We’d love to be able to expand it further to help more families/grandparents in NZ.

Secondly, the lack of funding has made it difficult to attract volunteer grandparents to join us as members, and we are currently running a waiting list for our families to get grandparents.

  • How has your organisation/project developed and what would you like to see in the future?

The organisation has developed from its small beginnings as a local non profit organisation based on the Hibiscus Coast to being a National Charitable Trust with members from Kerikeri right down to Christchurch and beyond. We have over 140 members currently. We have a Board of 5, and 6 Regional Coordinators covering Hamilton, Wellington, Blenheim, Nelson, Christchurch and Auckland, as well as a number of “ad-hoc” volunteers who help out when they can.

We have organised a variety of other Intergenerational projects and have run several Intergenerational Play/Coffee groups both on the Hibiscus Coast and in Hamilton, and a trial of “Table Talk” a drop in Intergenerational meetup for the local community being run at Whangaparaoa Library each Wednesday afternoon.

  • What would you like us to most tell locals about around your organisation/project?

We’d love to promote the fact that we do need more volunteer grandparents and funding as above.

  • What other information would you like to tell locals about you and your project/organisation …

We operate on a membership basis and applications are made through our website at There is a small application fee for families to join but currently it is free for grandparents, although we do ask for a Koha to cover essential programme running costs. All our members, both families and grandparents go through compulsory police vetting, and are subject to reference checking too to ensure the safety of all involved.

We are on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube!

We asked Julie to tell us a little about herself and what is her driver. She told us she is passionate about sharing hope, having the opportunity to help others to master and recognise the greatness each of us hold within. Julie would love to inspire others around the importance of self-love and when we have it in us we can share it with others.

Julie is the founder of Love Soup, a Food Rescue Charity that Provides Meals Sundays 5pm at Whangaparaoa Hall. They also collect and deliver food to organisations helping people in need.

When asked about what motivated her to start Love Soup, Julie replied “It was memories from when I was 5 years old, looking through rubbish bins for food, from experiencing life on the streets at 16 and seeing food waste in the hospitality industry at 18 years old. It was these life experiences that helped to lead me onto the pathway I am on today.”

When asked about what she found most rewarding about what she does Julie told us it’s the friendships formed and the happiness  from giving service. It’s the sharing hope, seeing the smiles on peoples faces and knowing you are making a difference in people's lives.

There are always frustrations however in any venture and Julie told us for them funding is always a challenge. Being overloaded with responsibility Love Soup have their struggles as the work is long and hard. So much goes on behind the scenes. For herself some of the struggles and frustrations are around just learning to say no and not taking on too much and finding balance and making time to rest when needed

Julie blames the mania for being Bi-polar. She has learned to channel it for a good purpose. Julie describes herself “like the kite flying without the string. If anyone needs to catch up you need to fly or run very fast too! I have learned to become more balanced over the years and I’m getting better to work with!”

When asked what Julie would like to see promoted for Love Soup she advised encouraging more businesses to get involved in Food Rescue, or even donations of goods that can be passed on to help benefit people in need, rather than sending to the dump.

Love Soup deliver to around 25 organisations a week, provide free Sunday weekly community meals catering enough to feed 100.  Love Soup welcome anyone to attend, no questions asked, just come along and visit. Julie tells us alot of the meals are provided with food that has been rescued and cooked by an amazing Chef. Love Soup also collaborate with St John Catholic Church Serving Spoons that do a Lunch in Orewa once a month.

At Christmas Love Soup organise a Large Community dinner and last year gave out over 1000 gifts to over 200 guests and 55 parcels to families around the Hibiscus Coast.

Love Soup are based at Whangaparaoa Hall, 717 Whangaparaoa Road. Someone always checks in daily. If you have anything to donate, you can contact Julie and Love Soup via their Love Soup Hibiscus Coast Facebook Page, Website:, Email - or Ph: 022 074 9526

Mentioned in this article is also Serving Spoons. This service also offers free lunches to anyone who would like to join them at St John’s Catholic Church at the church hall, 180 Centreway Road, Orewa, on the last Monday of every month, at 12.30pm. 

Featuring: Sara Mason, Community Activator Future Whangaparaoa Trust and Whangaparaoa Community Hub Manager

We asked Sara what were some of the qualities she felt she brought to her role.

“I’m a natural networker, I love helping and connecting people and being around others that are striving to make a positive difference in the community. I have worked in roles supporting the community for many years and this role is a great fit for me. I’m also mum to three kids (17, 13 and 11).”

When asked about who the Trust is and the motivation behind it Sara told us Future Whangaparaoa Trust was established by a group of community members who wanted to work together to see positive outcomes for the community. Their vision is for a strong, safe and supported Whangaparaoa Peninsula community, one which is violence free and well connected, cares about health and well-being, values and supports young people, supports local business and innovation, and values and cares for our beaches, streams and bush.

The Trust established the Whangaparaoa Wellbeing Network, to connect community     organisations, social services and other community supports like the Police and schools.

From the early meetings a need for a community space was identified as a key priority for Whangaparaoa. A working group formed, made up of The Family Centre Trust, Future Whangaparaoa Trust and several social service providers. The decision was made to trial a pop-up hub in a leased premise, and for it to be a collaborative space including community organisations, social services, local business and the individual residents.

With funding support from the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board, Future Whangaparaoa Trust were able to contract someone in the role of Community Activator, and that’s me. I assisted with the set-up of the hub and manage its’ day-to-day running. My role also includes coordinating the Whangaparaoa Wellbeing Network, supporting local organisations, fostering collaborations and delivering community events.

We asked Sara what she found most rewarding about what she does.

“I get to see the good that people are doing and connect with people who are very committed to helping and supporting our community. I know the work I do is adding value, and I feel very fortunate to have a role I enjoy so much”.

Sara tells us “The Hub is a thriving community asset and has potential to be much greater. The focus is now on the establishment of a permanent purpose-built hub for Whangaparaoa. This is no small task and a lot of funding needs to be found, but such an exciting and worthwhile project to be part of.”

Sara is also looking forward to delivering the Future Whangaparaoa Trust signature event “A Very Coastie Christmas” for a second year. This year the family friendly Christmas celebration will be held at Manly Park on Sunday 8 December. The event will include live music and entertainment, free activities, food trucks and a wonderful artisan market.

Sara said “This event is about bringing people together and fostering closer community connections. It’s a lot of work, requiring support and buy-in from a range of individuals and organisations, and creative thinking when it comes to resourcing, but it’s so rewarding helping to bring some fun and connection to our community.”

You will find the Whangaparaoa Community Hub at 5 Link Crescent, Stanmore Bay. If you are seeking a service you can find full details the the website at and through the Whangaparaoa Community Hub Facebook page or contact Sara on

For local business owners you can also join Business Whangaparaoa, the new business association for the Peninsula developed from the Trust. See details at

Featuring: Merv Huxford, Founder and Chair - Hockey Hibiscus Trust

Merv  came to Orewa from Wellington in 1977. He has five children brought up on the Coast and 14 Grandchildren.

With a long history of community service on the Coast, with his then wife Cathy, Merv has sat on the Boards of Kingsway School, Rodney Cricket, Rotary Club Orewa, Orewa Baptist Church, Hibiscus Dairy Flat Hockey Club, Northlink Health Trust, Windy Ridge Boys Camp, MetroPark Community Sports Trust, Youth in Transition Trust as well as several service groups outside of the Coast. He has also been a trustee of several private trusts, one of the more notable being the sole trustee in a trust that gave seed funding to 5 different Hospices in New Zealand  including $398k for the Hibiscus Hospice.  No man is an island, and over the years Merv has had a lot of support from his family, and partner, Bronwyn Ellison, in particular.

His business, Orewa Taxation Service, started in 1979, and is probably the longest running unchanged business on the Coast.

Merv has always been interested in sport, and hockey in particular. In 2003 he realised that the future of hockey was via the development of “Hub” facilities, so he made a submission to the Rodney District Council for land to be designated for such a facility. he followed a couple of lifelong adages – “actions speak louder than words” and the Henry Ford quote,  “whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, either way you’re right.”  Today at Millwater you can see this sport hub vision partly completed.

One of Merv’s first fundraising efforts involved a solo sponsored cycle ride ‘sprint’ across the widest part of New Zealand, ie from Opunake to East Cape, from which $100,310.00 was raised for community groups including hockey.

We asked Merv what he finds most rewarding about what he does? Merv advised

“Seeing a need, getting ideas, and then taking up and leading the challenge to get an outcome, be it with a agricultural and school project in Tanzania, a polio fundraising project with Gates Foundation in the Pacific, or the forming of a trust for mental health here on the Coast. I have had a lot of knockbacks and challenges in my life, but I am always determined to find the silver lining in any cloud.

As a trustee of APECT, an educational charitable trust, I have been able to secure all manner of grants for local, and northern, youth who take initiatives to improve their education and leadership skills and better their communities. I am not afraid to make decisions, and getting results is the most rewarding part of what I do.

We asked what he finds most challenging or frustrating with what he undertakes. Merv responded “Undoubtedly my biggest competitor is myself. Once I get focussed on something, I am not the best at gradually bringing others along with me. I get impatient and would much prefer to ask forgiveness than permission! I just want to get on with things and get projects moving.

 The other major frustration in more recent years has been the curse of ‘form over substance’ – the details on how a project is administered become so overbearing that they almost seem to be prioritised over the actual substance of the project. Sometimes it seems that common sense has been regulated out of existence – why have common sense when there are a hundred rules to follow? I certainly find that frustrating, but accept that it is a real challenge that needs to be managed.”

On the subject of the amazing work Merv has been involved with at Millwater Merv advised “After 7 years of submissions my ‘hockey and sports hub’ project at Millwater finally got some legs in 2010/11 with the Auckland City Council agreement to receive an application for a Lease of the site. I formed the Hockey Hibiscus Trust, became its Chair, a position I still hold today, and fundraising began in earnest for the $3.2m uniquely environmentally-friendly facility, and the first hockey turf of its type in the world. While the hockey playing facilities are operational, there is still much work to be done in providing a pavilion and also completing the multi-sports section of the facility.”

Merv confirmed “While we have raised $2.5m to date, and now have some revenue coming in to cover operational costs, we are still in fundraising mode and are keen for sponsors to get involved. One opportunity would be to name some of our competitions….we have 22 primary school hockey teams there each Thursday night. Or even consideration to naming parts of our facility.”

Merv advised us thathe has always believed that sport, including the wider social/ emotional/mental aspects of it, can be a life-changing experience. “A private benefactor pledged $200,000 to the Hockey Hibiscus Trust, provided that we run some form of multi-sport programme for nominated youth, with the aim of supporting their mental resilience, personal discipline and general development. This pledge came as no surprise to me as I can see how sport is the ideal way to foster personal growth in youth. I have achieved a lot in sport in my life with coaching, playing and administration from local right up to international level. But I will not be satisfied with the project at Millwater until the social development aim of the project comes into being.”

If you are interested in being involved in the project or would like to consider sponsoring or supporting please contact Merv through  

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