• Rod Slater, second right, with wife Lesley Slater, right, and Gary and Lesley Monk.

Gratitude and grand pianos

Rod Slater shares his memories and hopes for the future of North Harbour Club...

Joining the Club in its infancy, Rod has enjoyed a long and rewarding journey with the organisation. Always willing to help out and often lending a hand behind the scenes, he continues to contribute to the Club as a newly-minted ‘Valued Long Service Member’.

“I joined in the North Harbour Club’s second year, after my son Dan won the AIMES Sport category and was overall winner in the first year of awards, for sailing. Dan was overseas at the time of the presentation, so I had to accept the award on his behalf, from then Prime Minister Jim Bolger.”

Friends of Rod’s, namely Hugh Stedman and John Algie, were Club members and persuaded their mate to join. He didn’t hesitate. “Thanks to Ross Finlayson, the North Harbour Club was set up on some wonderful building blocks,” Rod says. “What the Club has done in supporting young people who demonstrate excellence is remarkable, and there are very few other organisations that do that.”

Highlights of his involvement are many, but former Club trustee points to a particular night that stands out the most for him. “In the late 1990s, we had a young protégé who was a very talented pianist – Justin Bird. Unbeknown to him, we’d done a fundraising drive ahead of the 1998 AIMES Awards ceremony, where he was playing.

“The late, great Paul Holmes was the MC and, after Justin had finished playing live on the grand piano, he was blown away by this young lad’s talent and pledged $1000 to our fundraiser. What a marvellous gesture!

“On stage, Paul asked Justin how he liked the grand piano he’d been playing. Justin raved about it and to his absolute shock, Paul told him it was now his! It was magnificent! Moments like that are unforgettable. Justin has gone on to great things and still has the piano to this day.”

Rod’s AIMES Award-winning son, Dan has also gone on to great things; he owns a marine business and is currently in Portugal sailing with the New Zealand Laser Olympic team. Both he, and Rod’s daughter Victoria, continue to live on the North Shore, where Rod moved to in 1970 from ‘out west’.

The former butcher originally moved to Birkenhead, and he has since lived in Takapuna and Milford. Rod stepped down as CEO of Beef and Lamb NZ in 2021, after a two-week secondment turned in 27 years with the organisation. He’s still involved in the industry and looks forward to attending the World Butcher’s Championships in Paris in 2025.

As many will know, Rod was the New Zealand Olympic Sailing team manager at the 1996 Olympics and is a regular guest commentator on sailing broadcasts, including for the America's Cup. He has added his support to many organisations, including as Chair of Yes Disability Resource Centre and is a long-serving board member of Diabetes New Zealand, as someone who lives with the condition.

Looking ahead to the future of the North Harbour Club, and the region he loves, Rod says, “There are some outstanding individuals who have benefitted from the work of the Club who have gone on to make their mark in the world. And while it’s much more difficult to raise funds in this current climate than it used to be, the Club has managed to keep supporting local young people to thrive.

“My message to the Club is simple, ‘Keep going! With all you’ve achieved, you must be doing something right!’”