Living and working the dream

Tairāwhiti Gisborne is a magnet for high-achievers and smart, connected workers.

The talent pool in Tairāwhiti Gisborne is one of the best. With world-class staff across multiple fields, the region offers employers a wide range of workers, from specialist skills to managers and labourers.

But it’s not just business. In sport, culture, academia and government, Tairāwhiti Gisborne punches above its weight. Here’s a snapshot of the talent that can be found in our corner of paradise.


We certainly breed the entrepreneurial spirit here.

Brian Shanks is the man you can thank for Scrumpy – New Zealand’s best-selling cider. In March 1988 Cyclone Bola hit Gisborne and its horticulture crops hard. Brian owned an apple orchard at the time and all the orders got cancelled. The New Zealand Apple and Pear Board would not accept the bruised fruit – so Brian made cider. The first 5000 litres took more than a year to sell. Today the company he founded, Harvest Cidery, makes three million litres of cider a year. Brian now lives in America with his wife Irene where he founded Bold Rock Cider – the largest independently owned cidery in America. It is currently ranked sixth in the USA cider market and is distributed in eight states. Bold Rock Cider has two cidery’s now – one in Virginia and one in Ashville, North Carolina.

Rhythm & Vines was born from a conversation at Otago University. Gisborne man Andrew Witters and his friends Hamish Pinkham and Tom Gibson thought it would be great to celebrate New Year’s Eve with New Zealand bands in a stunning natural amphitheatre where Andrew lived, in Tairāwhiti Gisborne.

The first event was in 2003. Headline act The Black Seeds played to around 1800 guests.

Dean Witters, Andrew’s dad, was right behind the idea and drove the development of the site in its early years to include multiple stages, a giant water slide and chill out area with rows of hammocks that were made for two.

Today it is the biggest three-day music festival in the country attended by around 14,000 people at Waiohika Estate in Tairāwhiti Gisborne.

Tairāwhiti Gisborne designer Sally Shanks started The Formary with Bernadette Casey. The Formary developed a wool and rice straw blend that hit the commercial market and was picked up by Starbucks. Sally is also the person behind the Boutique Dome Cinema in Tairāwhiti Gisborne, the only one of its kind here where you can settle into a bean bag in a cool historic building and watch fabulous movies with an art house bent. 

Paul Nache Contemporary Art Gallery is the brainchild of Director Matthew Nache. At the heart of the gallery is a desire to teach people to have an emotional connection to art and the value art adds to society, culture and community.



Kayakers Grant Bramwell and Alan Thompson won gold in the 1984 summer Olympics in Los Angeles with their team mates Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald.

Wai Taumaunu was the head coach for our national netball team the Silver Ferns for four years. She started out as a player for the team, eventually became captain, assistant coach and then head coach. Sandra Edge is another Tairāwhiti Gisborne girl who became a Silver Fern.

Cory Hutchings has achieved a lot but most noteworthy is the New Zealand Iron Man title he held for more than 10 years. He also won the World Surf Ironman biannual title in 1998, 2000 and 2002. He still calls Tairāwhiti Gisborne home and helps mentor young people.

Former All Black rugby players Rico (pictured) and Hosea Gear are of Ngati Porou iwi. The brothers got their first feel of rugby growing up in Tairāwhiti Gisborne the good old-fashioned way – bare feet in the backyard. Today they are synonymous with the greats of New Zealand rugby. Other national rugby players before them from Tairāwhiti Gisborne include George Nepia, Charlie Ngata and Ian Kirkpatrick.

Professional heavyweight boxer Shane Cameron was born in Tiniroto – a small rural area about 15 minutes from Tairāwhiti Gisborne. His talent took him around the world but his home is still here.

Maz Quinn is one of New Zealand’s best surfers and is in the top 44 male surfers of the world. He is a four-time winner of New Zealand’s national surfing championships, and winner of the 1996 Billabong Pro-Junior series. In the 90s Maz took part in the World Qualifying Series (WQS) and in 1999 became the first New Zealander to win a WQS event. In 2001 he was the first New Zealander to qualify for the World Championship Tour. 


Perhaps it is the quiet contemplative time you can find here that’s contributed to the number of artists, poets, designers and writers who call Tairāwhiti Gisborne home?

Lana Phillips has been a dancer with Footnote New Zealand Dance since 2014. She began her dance training as a young girl in Tairāwhiti Gisborne, and graduated in 2013 with a Diploma in Dance Performance. She is pictured performing at the 2016 World Of Wearable Arts awards.


International opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa was raised in Tairāwhiti Gisborne. The soprano has enjoyed a successful opera career on the global stage since 1968. In Tairāwhiti Gisborne there is a retirement village named in her honour. Dame Kiri pops back every couple of years to say hello to the residents, and always jokes she will join them soon.

Dame Anne Salmond won New Zealander of the Year in 2013. She grew up in Gisborne and became an academic, historian, writer and environmentalist among many other wonderful things. She comes from the large Thorpe family of Tairāwhiti Gisborne, who are all very talented and have added much to the business and creative world in Tairāwhiti Gisborne over the years.

Amanda Gillies is now a presenter on the The AM Show. She started work for TV3 in 2001, was their Australian correspondent and now works as a senior TV reporter for Newshub. The media industry has many more from Tairāwhiti Gisborne like the very clever, funny and entertaining Jackie Clarke, the quite good-looking television presenters Clark Gayford and Matai Smith, and the very talented TVNZ political journalist Tina Wickliffe.

Mark Kopua is a legend in the world of Tā Moko. He has been tattooing for more than 16 years and before that was a carver for 35 years.

The late Murray Ball (1939-2017) was the man behind Footrot Flats – the cartoon strip about Wal and the Dog. As well as publishing many books, the cartoons appeared in newspapers around the world between 1976 and 1994. 

Witi Ihimaera CNZM QSM is a New Zealand author, who was the first Maori writer to publish both a book of short stories and a novel. His wonderful book, Whale Rider, was turned into a multi-award winning film and is set north of Tairāwhiti Gisborne in the picturesque Whangara.

The late Graeme Mudge was a prolific artist who could often be seen around Tairāwhiti Gisborne with his hat on, his pushbike against a tree, as he sketched and painted cityscapes. There are 14 public murals around Tairāwhiti Gisborne painted by Graeme adding a unique vibrancy to our city centre.

The late Peter Brown was a fine-art painter whose paintings can be found in collections around the world.

New Zealand actress and singer Bronwyn Turei, you might remember her from the New Zealand comedy/drama series Go Girls.

Te Wai Coulston is a young Tairāwhiti Gisborne man who is getting noticed. The University of Auckland student won the Chancellor’s Award for Top Maori and Pacific Island scholarship – worth about $35,000 towards tuition. Te Wai will also sail for six weeks on the Ship for World Youth – an initiative funded and run by the Japanese Government for young leaders from around the world. Te Wai is the assistant national leader for the New Zealand delegation on the ship. A perk of his post means he will get to meet the Prime Minister of Japan. The ship will sail from Japan to New Zealand and around the Pacific, where they will participate in seminars and courses to further their global citizenship and leadership skills. He is also involved with United Nation Youth NZ, is on the UN Youth Auckland Council and the Young Labour Executive.

To discover how you can access this kind of talent for your enterprise, visit Activate Tairāwhiti

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