Sir Graeme Avery recognised for contribution to Hawke’s Bay

Visionary sport, community and business leader Sir Graeme Avery has been acknowledged for his immense contribution to developing over $80 million in high performance and community facilities, tackling community health issues and supporting youth to reach their potential.

The newly completed 72 bed hostel, part of a campus of sport and health facilities at the regional sports park in Hastings will be officially known as the Sir Graeme S. Avery House.

The announcement was made by the Hawke’s Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust (HBCFCT) and Hon. Stuart Nash, the Minister for Economic and Regional Development at a special event to open the hostel. The hostel was funded by the Government through a $5m Provincial Growth Fund grant, managed by Kānoa, the Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit.

Sir Graeme’s vision is for the hostel to be used by sport organisations as well as to be used for the delivery of programmes that bring about positive social change and enhance job prospects for Hawke’s Bay’s most disadvantaged young people across Waipukurau, Flaxmere, Maraenui, and Wairoa.

Sir Graeme was the founding chair of HBCFCT, establishing the Trust alongside Bruce Mactaggart in 2016 to develop community sport, education and health facilities and programmes in Hawke’s Bay. Since then the Trust has built the EIT Institute of Sport and Health that boasts the Royston Health and Fitness Centre, the new $32 million Hawke’s Bay Regional Aquatic Centre and now the Sir Graeme Avery Hostel.

“I don’t do things (for the community) to receive recognition or even a gong from the Queen or King. Gaby and I do it to help people to be the best they can be in sport or individually with their health and wellbeing, that’s all the recognition I need.

“I was very reluctant to accept this honour but having talked to my family, especially my son Nigel, I agreed that it would be a fantastic legacy for the family, as well as continue to tell the story of our vision to create opportunities for youth in sport and in life generally, as well as combat some of the poor health statistics in Hawke’s Bay.

“I have to stick around at least another decade to see some of that happen. There’s been some early success with athletes representing New Zealand from here but some of the health programmes are research based and the fruits of those are 10 plus years away,” Sir Graeme Avery said.

Minister Stuart Nash congratulated Sir Graeme, Bruce Mactaggart and the Trust for completing an impressive campus that benefits all Hawke’s Bay residents.

“I’d like to congratulate everyone involved in bringing the vision for this hostel to life and creating such a valuable asset for Hawke’s Bay. This is a magnificent facility that is already supporting our young people to realise their potential, develop leadership skills and build self-esteem through sports and physical fitness,” he says.

“This well-designed accommodation also adds another crucial and unique element to the set of sporting facilities that are strengthening Hawke’s Bay’s reputation for delivering and hosting great sport events alongside ground-breaking support for youth wellbeing and development.

“I would also like to sincerely thank Sir Graeme Avery for his visionary leadership and support for this community and New Zealand over many years. The naming of this facility in his honour is a fitting tribute to his drive for showing what can be achieved when communities work together to help a region and its people realise their full potential.

“The future lies in our young people. It’s up to all of us to help them make the most of opportunities to be the best they can be, in the regions and places they call home. That is a legacy we can all be proud of supporting.”

“A force of nature” is how Sir Graeme Avery is described by fellow founding Hawke’s Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust Trustee Bruce Mactaggart.

Bruce recalls a casual coffee catch up with Sir Graeme Avery in 2015 that sparked the vision of creating a regional version of Auckland’s AUT Millennium Sport Institute and National High Performance Training Centre.

“As I often say Sir Graeme is a force of nature with boundless energy and can easily do the work of at least four people.

“He’s proven time and again that he can bring dreams and visions to reality, never taking no for answer.”

Sir Graeme was knighted in 2014 for service to business and sport, having been involved at the time in athletics locally, nationally and internationally for over 45 years and leading the fundraising and development of AUT Millennium.

Bruce says Graeme saw the potential of creating quality local facilities and programmes that would benefit up and coming athletes as well as all improving community health and well-being outcomes along with youth development programmes.

“Ultimately for Hawke’s Bay Sir Graeme is driven to provide young and old, able or disabled, advantaged and disadvantaged with access to world class facilities and programmes. For Graeme it’s not just about building fantastic facilities for elite athletes but just as important is improving community health outcomes and tackling issues like obesity as well as developing inspirational programmes to ensure youth reach their potential.”

Sir Graeme has stepped down as chair of HBCFCT but remains actively involved, whether it be setting up new sports to the region such as water polo, which now has a schools competition and also recently hosted the national masters event,  to sharing a coffee with Bruce, just like in 2015, and coming up with new ideas to improve sport opportunities and health and wellbeing outcomes.

New HBCFCT chair Iain Taylor said Hawke’s Bay wouldn’t have some of the best sport facilities in New Zealand if it wasn’t for Sir Graeme’s vision, commitment and energy.

“What makes it even more incredible is that in only six short years he and the Trust have created over $80 million in facilities that will benefit the health and well-being of Hawke’s Bay people of all ages, as well enabling athletes to be the best that they can be,” Iain said.

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst says the people of Hastings and Hawke’s Bay are deeply indebted to the vision and commitment of Sir Graeme, backed by the support of wife Gaby and family, in creating facilities and programmes that will have a hugely positive impact for many years.

The facilities are on council land and have been instrumental in elevating the Sports Park to world class status and the envy of regions across New Zealand.

“Sir Graeme is a treasure for Hawke’s Bay and his contribution will create many future international sport stars, attract teams and events to compete, train and stay at the park as well as uplift our youth in the delivery of youth development programmes.”