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Hauraki-Coromandel Post - 2021-06-10

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Nod to festival king

Front Page

Alison Smith

Graeme “Noddy” Watts jokes it’s not often that a petrolhead is nominated for a Queen’s Birthday honour. But it’s when driving past the many community organisations he’s helped establish and support over the years that he’s humbled by the thanks he received on Monday. Noddy was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the community and charity fundraising. “I just want to say thank you to everyone that was involved in the nomination,” he said. “I’m really proud for our community, friends and family, and obviously our festival and the car community. “It’s not often a petrolhead gets nominated for an award like that. “There are a few people in town that don’t really know me, it will be 30 years I’ve been here and every time I drive past the kindy I think ‘we built that’. I was chair of the establishment committee, and that’s something you can see. I’m really proud of that.” Noddy is president of the hugely successful Repco Beach Hop which has won the accolade of New Zealand’s favourite event, and raised thousands of dollars for charitable local causes including the emergency service volunteers of Whangamatā and surrounds. A cheque presentation will be made to those services on Sunday at the Whangamatā Club by the Beach Hop committee, with televised coverage of the March 2021 event on the big screen. Noddy and partner Andrea Ross organise other events such as the Scoot for Loot charity ride which provides money for Canteen, Whangamatā Scouts, and teen suicide prevention, among others. When the Queen’s Birthday honour was announced on Monday, he says there were some naysayers who did not enjoy the Beach Hop event. But the announcement had brought out the best in most people. “This event is our way of doing our part for our community. I think we all have a responsibility to our community. We’re all about emergency services in our area because we understand our town needs to have systems to keep the beach safe, the boaties safe, the community able to access St Johns and the rescue helicopter. That’s what the whole festival is about.” It’s also, he agrees, about fun. After all, how many other towns would close their main street to allow rock and roll dancing to take over? “I’d rather be happy than doom and gloom. The festival is a chance for people to have a good time, and as I saw from some of the overseas media coverage of the Beach Hop during a year of Covid, people overseas look at the freedom we’ve got in New Zealand and it’s put us on the map.” The couple celebrated with friends on Monday night at a gathering at their Whangamatā home. Aroha and peace are the key to business success, says 2021 QSM recipient Haere Mikaere. He says the principles that he was lucky to have been brought up with in his small rural Ma¯ori community of Manaia on the Coromandel were about people, planet and shared prosperity. “As a businessman, [I] try to help our community and those in it who are not so well off to have a better life. To achieve those things you must have aroha and peace.” Born in 1952 and raised in rural Manaia which had 100 people, he reflected on the Roger Douglas era when he says the Government shifted its policies, to the detriment of his iwi — “taking the manaaki away from rural areas into the cities”. “It got to less than 50 people on a huge area of land. Our people were moving into the cities to get jobs in the lower socio-economic areas, education was missed for about three decades from the late 1950s to the late 1970s and early 80s. “With the transfer of people from rural sectors into cities ... it’s almost time now that we take those people out of the cities and bring them back again. But there’s got to be resources to help those people.” Haere has owned many businesses and is a pioneer of the aquaculture industry, as one of the earliest mussel farmers in the Coromandel. He represented the industry internationally and supported other organisations in the development of their businesses over 30 years. He has been a director of Pare Hauraki Fishing Trust and a director of Aquaculture New Zealand since 2011. Employing local people, including the first and only rest home and private hospital in the Coromandel, he seeks opportunities to put less fortunate people into a position in society where they feel they can contribute. The Queen’s Honour was a reflection of the many people that helped him along the way. “Many people have helped me achieve the picking up of this tohu from the Crown. I’m picking it up on behalf of our people.” As a committee member and chairman of Manaia Marae, Haere has been instrumental in the redevelopment of the marae and the local kura of Manaia. His own parents and grandparents and the wider community of Manaia gave him the support he needed to achieve in life, from his simple upbringing. “We grew big gardens and milked cows to sustain life and tried to make a prosperous future. Capitalism wasn’t part of it, it was about keeping families healthy. “I think we were much better doing that at that time.” Haere’s whakapapa is with Ngati Pukenga, Ngati Maru and Ngati Kahungunu, chairing the Iwi Ma¯ori Council from 2007 to 2016 and iwi negotiator of Te Au Maaro from 2005. “Life is simple. We need to be educated, with both matauranga Ma¯ori worlds and Western society, and we need to feed ourselves, clothe ourselves and house ourselves. “The majority in New Zealand get this but one-third of our people struggle with this socio-economic variant, and we have them in our village.” Haere says this became his target as a businessman: “To see if I can at achieve some of those changes and differences.” Fundamentally a family man, he said being an iwi leader in a Ma¯ori community at an international level gave an opportunity to transfer information across to help others achieve a better life in Aotearoa New Zealand. “We’re now looking at four generations of people who are never going to get there. If we continue to allow that in this country we’re going to have eight generations by the time my great-grandchildren age.” Haere is a director of Hauraki Ma¯ori Trust Board and chairs Pare Hauraki Assets Holdings, Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki, and Tikapa Moana Enterprise Ltd. Chairman of Hauraki Primary Health Organisation, Tainui Waka Alliance and Nga¯ti Pu¯kenga ki Manaia, he was previously on the Waikato District Health Board. He was also director and chairman of the Asset Holding Trust of Nga¯ti Kahungunu. reach my

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