[As published in Jan/Feb BayBuzz magazine.]

We’d like you to meet a few uniquely talented people, mostly flying ‘under the radar’, some with quite uncommon skills, all striving to be the best at what they do ‘in their zones’. Offered as sources of inspiration.

James Laver
The Bat Craft

By Andrew Frame

The sound of leather on willow is a quintessential part of Hawke’s Bay summer as the region’s long hot days are the perfect setting for games of cricket in our region’s many parks. 

Since 1999 Laver and Wood have been a key part of that summer experience. Beginning in Central Hawke’s Bay, now based on the shores of Napier’s inner harbour in Ahuriri, master cricket bat maker James Laver and his team produce up to 1,000 high quality, hand-crafted English willow cricket bats each year for players across Hawke’s Bay and around the world. 

Mass, machine-produced, international brand cricket bats available at sporting goods stores are all much of a muchness. Adult bats are almost exclusively the same length and within a few ounces of each other in weight. Handle design and profile (the thickness and side-on shape of the bat) generally don’t differ a whole lot either across individual models of bat. 

High-end cricket bats can now cost well over $1,000, but even those bats are still ‘off the shelf” models, and the size and style of bat 5’7” Kane Williamson uses wouldn’t be much good for 6’8” Kyle Jamieson. 

What sets Laver and Wood apart is their bespoke craftmanship and value for money. 

Crafting a cricket bat out of a cleft of English willow is a real old-school looking trade with traditional techniques and hand tools like draw knives and spokeshaves. It is very labour-intensive and can be a very time-consuming process, but it is that labour-intensive nature that makes each bat so personalised and perfected for its user. 

Longer oval handles, shorter, heavier blades with thick edges, or a lighter bat with a higher centre of weight – James can create a bat to suit an individual’s exact needs and playing style. 

“Rather than spending vast amounts of money on sponsoring international players we choose to spend heavily on customer service. We look after our customers and their bats because we believe that the best bats need to be matched with the best customer service,” says James. 

Laver and Wood’s biggest export market is, unlikely as it may seem, the United States of America, where they have been trading since the year 2000. They sell hundreds of bats each year there to an increasing cricketing ex-pat population. The sport has been gaining popularity domestically and a “Major League Cricket” T20 competition is beginning to make a big impact and attract thousands of spectators. 

Looking forward to future seasons Laver and Wood are now in a growth phase after some quiet cricket years through the Covid period. “We expect to grow substantially in the USA due to the nature of cricket being played. There are a similar amount of cricketers there to New Zealand, but here we have half still at school, whereas in the States there are very few youth teams. 

“We are also seeing a nice growth in New Zealand and Australia and the future of our markets there is looking very bright,” James says. 

Waylan Tahuri Whaipakanga supplied
Waylan Tahuri Whaipakanga supplied

Waylyn Tahuri
Whaipakanga Hold on to your Dream

By Sahiban Hyde

Waylyn Tahuri-Whaipakanga’s self-proclaimed managing style is “firm, fair, with a bit of fun”, so it’s no wonder that she has been crowned the 2023 Leader of the Year at Hawke’s Bay Chamber’s Business Awards.

As she sees it, “A good leader would be someone who puts their community and staff first, someone who has self-awareness, and a dream to want to do something, desire, determination, drive and dedication to make it happen.”

As CEO of one of the largest Māori providers in the country, Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga with a workforce of nearly 500, she is a woman who juggles several other hats with ease.

Waylyn is the chair of the Hōhepa Hawke’s Bay/Wellington Board, Tātau Tātau Housing Limited Partnership and contributes to organisations such as the NZ NGO Council.

She was the second ACC Māori approved counsellor in Hawke’s Bay and continues to be actively involved in her Wairoa hometown as a current Trustee of Rangiahua Marae.

She has previously also worked in Wairoa as a drug and alcohol counsellor, with the Hawke’s Bay DHB as a mental health and addictions counsellor, and was chair of the Springhill Advisory Group, all this backed by more than a handful of degrees, including alcohol and drug counselling and psychotherapy.

She likes looking ahead.

“We (Tātau Tātau o Te Wairoa Housing LP) are building affordable rental homes in Wairoa, down Kitchener Street, with the intention of starting building work in the second quarter of next year.”

She also wants mental health and addictions issues addressed, especially post Cyclone Gabrielle. “Taiwhenua have the capacity, but not as many referrals coming through as we thought we would. For the first time in my career the government funded Taiwhenua to provide counselling for people. We have a team to see anyone for anything.”

She is also on the regional skills leadership group and one of the things they would be focusing on, for the coming year, would be identifying and supporting better ways of meeting future skills and workforce needs in our region. “It’s important for our region that all of us work together, and that we are all on the same page. In Hastings we are very fortunate to have a good relationship with the council, MSD, Iwi and Te Whatu Ora.”

With a lot on her hands, it would be easy to imagine her not prioritising self-care. But unsurprisingly, she does that too. With aplomb. 

“I get up at 5am, go for a walk at 5.15am at least three to four times a week. I have a great family and great friends, and I am very fortunate to love what I do.”

She said at Taiwhenua the team talk their values, and walk the talk of their values – Kaitiakitanga, Whakamana, Kotahitanga and Whanaungatanga.

For up-and-coming young leaders, she has some advice.

“Don’t lose sight of what you are employed to do, and don’t lose sight of your dream. Have your dream and hold onto that because that is what will drive you. And don’t forget to enjoy the successes along the way.”

Simon and Hamish Lack Photo Florence Charvin
Simon and Hamish Lack Photo Florence Charvin

Simon and Hamish Lack
A skiff for the Olympics

By Andrew Frame

Hawke’s Bay is well known for producing rowing royalty – Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell and Emma Twigg all came from our region, competed for the Hawke’s Bay Rowing Club and all have stood atop the Olympic and World Championships dais, winning gold medals for New Zealand. 

While Olympians, novices and future Maadi Cup champions strenuously stroke up and down the Clive River, brothers Simon and Hamish Lack of SL Racing are working hard at the foot of Puketapu Hill behind Taradale to produce the best boats – for beginners to world champion rowers. 

Competitive rowing boats, called ‘skiffs’, are obviously far more advanced than your average aluminium dingy or fibreglass canoe. 

The Lacks hand-lay carbon fibre and Nomex honeycomb core laminate into moulds to form the hulls. Their boats are very light – a Single Scull (one person boat with two oars) measures eight meters long, but comes out of the mould at around just 6.5 kilograms. Once completed with fittings and a carbon fibre rigger on it, the whole boat still only weighs a mere 14kg! 

SL Racing produces skiffs in singles, pairs/doubles and quads/fours configurations, all the way up to 17.5m long coxed eights – the bigger boats typically being sold to rowing clubs and schools. 

A standard single scull costs around $12,600 (higher end models are approx. $16,500), while an Eight is currently around $50,000, but the price will be going up next year due to more technology being put into the craft. 

Each type of skiff also has different models depending on the body type and weight (youth/adult, men/women) of the rowers using them. Within those set models the rowers’ set-up can be changed to add their personal requirements.

SL Racing has focussed on the domestic market with only a small number of exports until now. Keeping local also means they have the proper resources set up to deliver and service their product to new markets and customers. 

Being former rowers themselves means the Lacks’ customer service is that much more detailed. They say what sets SL Racing apart from their competitors “is knowing our product, how to use it and the importance of fitting the right boat to the rower. It’s not just about the boat you need, but the settings within it. Measurements are the most important thing for having the competitive edge on the water, and we tailor every boat to fit its rower perfectly.”

SL Racing welcomed Olympic gold medallist Emma Twigg as their brand ambassador last year to row and help develop their boats to perform at an elite level. 

SL Racing is hoping 2024 will have a golden glow. “Next year is a big one for us. We will have Emma Twigg racing our boat at the Paris Olympics which is a huge deal and an awesome opportunity for us. It is the first time we will have a boat competing at the Olympics,” says Simon.

Fergus Morunga

By Abby Beswick

Russian gangsters, car chases and private jets – it sounds like the movies right? Well it is, except in this case, the writer and director are Hawke’s Bay teen Fergus Morunga.

The Lindisfarne student may only be 16, but he’s already got three films under his belt and his fourth is underway. 

Raised on a farm just out of Wairoa, Morunga developed an early interest in literature, writing four books by the time he was 10. He then shifted his attention to writing film scripts.

An idea about a bank robbery turned into a 10-minute action film, featuring numerous kids and local residents. Morunga enjoyed the process, but the biggest rush was the audience’s reaction. “What I loved about it was just seeing the looks on the students’ and parents’ faces watching themselves being on screen,” he says. 

It lit a flame inside Morunga. “It’s a really cool thing to be able to bring people into a room and know that something that you’ve created brings joy to people’s lives.”

In Year 8, aged 12, he came to Lindisfarne as a boarder. Morunga thrived in his new environment and inspired by the school’s buildings, he wrote his second film, Gold mine

The action film featured police cars roaring up the school driveway and even had a helicopter landing on the field. Students who acted in the film walked the red carpet at the premiere, which raised almost $1000 for Starship Hospital and Women’s Refuge. 

Taking the lessons he learnt from his second film, Morunga soon started working on his third, and this time he wanted to challenge stereotypes about the elderly. “People think when people get old they’re losing the plot and I changed it and made them the brainy ones that crack the case.”

The good, the bad and the elderly is particularly impressive given the scope involved. Professional actors Teresa Woodham, Brigid McVeigh and Paula Jones starred in the film, along with Lindisfarne students and staff and residents from Summerset in the Orchard. Even well-known news personality Patrick Gower makes an appearance. 

The plot centres around a Russian gangster who buys a retirement home, intending to use it for laundering drug money, but he is foiled by a group of sharp-witted elderly residents. 

A number of local businesses and organisations extended their support for the film, which was filmed entirely on students’ phones and edited on laptops. 

A highlight for Morunga was pitching the film to Skyline Aviation in the hope they would let him use a private jet. “I must have done well because they took me outside and let me choose a jet that I wanted to use!”

The film premiered last year at the school auditorium to a rapt audience, with all of the money made going to charity. 

Morunga was recently named head boy for 2024. When he’s not making movies, you’ll find him enjoying his other interests – hunting deer on the farm, playing hockey and playing the bagpipes. 

Lily Frederikse Photo Florence Charvin
Lily Frederikse Photo Florence Charvin

Lily Frederikse
Visitor Experience Designer and Planner

By Bonnie Flaws

Who would have thought that a major council infrastructure upgrade project – Hastings’ new water treatment facility, or Waiaroha – could also be a creatively designed visitor experience destination?

Waiaroha is a discovery centre: a fun place to learn about the local water cycle from mountain to sea, and how we as humans interact with it, says Lily Frederikse of Stitchbird. Frederikse’s specialised company, based in HB, is one of just a few in the country that design exhibition and visitor attraction spaces.

The council project involved various streams of expertise, but what Stitchbird brought to the table was the storytelling elements, everything that people read and interact with when they’re there. “The human layer,” she says.

“We had to navigate that space to provide full representation of the science, mātauranga Māori and how council manages water, while revealing everything about the groundwater system. That isn’t always easy to communicate. We had to distill it down to something people could take home with them in a fun and engaging way.”

In a region where water is a hot potato topic, and lifeblood issue, that was no mean feat. Moreover, Stitchbird had to deliver for school learners and tourists alike.

But Frederikse, from Whanganui originally, is no novice. She pursued a highly specialised academic and career path that includes a Masters degree in Museum and Heritage studies, plus 20 years planning, designing and delivering magical spaces where people can learn and experience … hands-on.

Working at Te Papa and Auckland Museum were a big part of her formative years, but later the Hawke’s Bay lifestyle called. “The work followed us.”

Frederikse’s work goes beyond design to ask the big questions: why a project is being done, what people should get out of it, how best to communicate the vision. This leads to a project management style that covers everything from branding to communications, storytelling and design.

Waiaroha is just the latest in a long line of impressive and delightful projects.

Stitchbird provided the formative planning and design briefs for a new museum honouring New Zealand soldiers who fought in World War I, in Les Quesnoy, France. Frederikse delivered something that had a contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand flavour relevant to a wider contemporary audience, she says. Fitting for a museum promoting “Freedom, Friendship, Future”.

A career defining project, she says, only to be rivalled by her work on Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom, a multi-purpose tourism and community hub in Foxton, containing the National Dutch Museum.

Frederikse, a third generation Dutch Kiwi, describes the project as her “love”. Built around a replica Dutch windmill, which grinds real flour, the facility also incorporates a multi-Hapu museum, a library, cafe and shopping experience, all in a riverside cultural park. 

“It’s a little visitor experience you can do on the way to Wellington. These unusual little places and projects, they’re just as good as anything you would experience in Europe. These places are a reason to go somewhere.” 


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