• Former Club Patron Peter Menzies, left, presents the 2019 AIMES Supreme Award to Courtney Davies alongside then President, Phil Brosnan.

Reflections on foundations and the future

Former Patron Peter Menzies takes a past, present and future look at the work of North Harbour Club

Honouring the North Harbour Club’s essence of enriching young lives and strengthening the community it serves has been key to the Club’s past and will ensure its bright future, says former Patron Peter Menzies.  

Peter was drawn to the idea of assisting the embryonic club by its founder. “Ross Finlayson was the strong leader behind it all,” he says. “I could see the real value in what Ross had started to put together and, before I joined as a member, I started offering the club financial support to contribute to their efforts.

“The people who set this up were doing this for the benefit of the community.”

Living in Narrow Neck at the time, Peter spent much of his working life away from the Shore, as a civil engineer and managing construction, before moving into property development.

“I could see that the North Harbour Club was an organisation that strengthened the community, encouraged young people to achieve excellence in their lives, and the interconnections that the people who joined the club established, created a community of understanding. It had multiple benefits. All of this said to me, that this was a club that will not only benefit those involved, but the whole of the North Harbour.”

Succeeding Barry Morris as Club Patron was a great honour for Peter, who recalls his predecessor fondly. “He was a Judge and well respected. As Patron, we enjoyed his sense of humour and friendly personality.” In 2021, Peter handed over the reins to current Club Patron Liz Blackwell, doing so with a huge sense of respect and admiration.

“Liz is an outstanding woman. She has put a new dynamic into the role of Patron. She is committed to the premise the club has been built on and has done a lot to intensify the role.”

Peter is proud not only of the Club’s products, but also its processes. “It’s totally non-political. Members leave behind any political views they have and respect each other’s differences. The selection of AIMES recipients, for example, is totally based on merit, entirely as it should be. It’s an honest and transparent process.”

Delivering excellence is a broad remit that should cover all aspects of an organisation, says Peter. “When you are in business, excellence is the thing that really matters. A business life is satisfying for everyone involved if it focuses on doing the very best it can - in its operations, for the staff, for the suppliers, the shareholders, and the customers. The main focus should not be about making money; but producing excellence in every aspect of that business.”

He points to the gradual, cumulative growth of the Club as the signature of its success, as opposed to seeing any specific highlight moments. He is pleased to have seen a broadening of its scope in terms of its involvement in developing the Shore Junction youth hub.

“When the Club purchased the former Takapuna RSA Club premises and established Shore Junction, this was a further move towards its work impacting young people beyond the awarding of AIMES prizes. Shore Junction serves a new function and has added to the growth of the Club with an extension of its support of youth activities, over and above the annual AIMES Awards.

“It met the need to reach out and encourage youth to strengthen their connections and understandings, receive mentoring and enable young people to explore areas that they are interested in.”

Father-of-six Peter has 20 grandchildren mostly ‘scattered around the world’. He cared for his beloved late wife Jane Mary when she developed Alzheimer’s, with him thereby entering ‘a new phase of life’. The caregivers who supported his wife included recent immigrants with young families and Peter says he found their commitment to the work and to New Zealand inspiring.

Peter respects how the North Harbour area has changed over the decades, honouring the impacts made by older and newer residents of the region. “The contributions of recent migrants have made a real difference to the sense of social unity in New Zealand. I think it’s important we recognise that, and we all continue to work together, for good, regardless of how long any of us have lived here.”

Peter cites Peter Wall and Gary Monk as important protagonists in the Club’s success, alongside founder Ross Finlayson. “The Club has had some very strong, very capable people behind it, who have demonstrated excellence in many ways. The North Shore is fortunate to be blessed with people who have led lives doing very useful things for their community.

“I recognise that other parts of Auckland have communities that are hard pressed to get by in daily life, with many people not in a position to be able to give back in the same ways. The Club’s model is, in essence, to put hope, support and energy into the community. Every community needs that. And every community can do that in varying degrees. I would love to see the concept of the North Harbour Club replicated across the country.

“It needs a lot of Ross Finlayson-type energy and skills, however, to make this happen. You have got to have that drive and desire to do it. But it’s possible, and maybe it will come.

“Regardless, the Club has an indefinite future, as the needs that it meets will never not be there.”