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People Who Shape Our Community: Merv Huxford

June 30, 2019

Featuring: Merv Huxford, Founder and Chair - Hockey Hibiscus Trust

Merv  came to Orewa from Wellington in 1977. He has five children brought up on the Coast and 14 Grandchildren.

With a long history of community service on the Coast, with his then wife Cathy, Merv has sat on the Boards of Kingsway School, Rodney Cricket, Rotary Club Orewa, Orewa Baptist Church, Hibiscus Dairy Flat Hockey Club, Northlink Health Trust, Windy Ridge Boys Camp, MetroPark Community Sports Trust, Youth in Transition Trust as well as several service groups outside of the Coast. He has also been a trustee of several private trusts, one of the more notable being the sole trustee in a trust that gave seed funding to 5 different Hospices in New Zealand  including $398k for the Hibiscus Hospice.  No man is an island, and over the years Merv has had a lot of support from his family, and partner, Bronwyn Ellison, in particular.

His business, Orewa Taxation Service, started in 1979, and is probably the longest running unchanged business on the Coast.

Merv has always been interested in sport, and hockey in particular. In 2003 he realised that the future of hockey was via the development of “Hub” facilities, so he made a submission to the Rodney District Council for land to be designated for such a facility. he followed a couple of lifelong adages – “actions speak louder than words” and the Henry Ford quote,  “whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, either way you’re right.”  Today at Millwater you can see this sport hub vision partly completed.

One of Merv’s first fundraising efforts involved a solo sponsored cycle ride ‘sprint’ across the widest part of New Zealand, ie from Opunake to East Cape, from which $100,310.00 was raised for community groups including hockey.

We asked Merv what he finds most rewarding about what he does? Merv advised

“Seeing a need, getting ideas, and then taking up and leading the challenge to get an outcome, be it with a agricultural and school project in Tanzania, a polio fundraising project with Gates Foundation in the Pacific, or the forming of a trust for mental health here on the Coast. I have had a lot of knockbacks and challenges in my life, but I am always determined to find the silver lining in any cloud.

As a trustee of APECT, an educational charitable trust, I have been able to secure all manner of grants for local, and northern, youth who take initiatives to improve their education and leadership skills and better their communities. I am not afraid to make decisions, and getting results is the most rewarding part of what I do.

We asked what he finds most challenging or frustrating with what he undertakes. Merv responded “Undoubtedly my biggest competitor is myself. Once I get focussed on something, I am not the best at gradually bringing others along with me. I get impatient and would much prefer to ask forgiveness than permission! I just want to get on with things and get projects moving.

 The other major frustration in more recent years has been the curse of ‘form over substance’ – the details on how a project is administered become so overbearing that they almost seem to be prioritised over the actual substance of the project. Sometimes it seems that common sense has been regulated out of existence – why have common sense when there are a hundred rules to follow? I certainly find that frustrating, but accept that it is a real challenge that needs to be managed.”

On the subject of the amazing work Merv has been involved with at Millwater Merv advised “After 7 years of submissions my ‘hockey and sports hub’ project at Millwater finally got some legs in 2010/11 with the Auckland City Council agreement to receive an application for a Lease of the site. I formed the Hockey Hibiscus Trust, became its Chair, a position I still hold today, and fundraising began in earnest for the $3.2m uniquely environmentally-friendly facility, and the first hockey turf of its type in the world. While the hockey playing facilities are operational, there is still much work to be done in providing a pavilion and also completing the multi-sports section of the facility.”

Merv confirmed “While we have raised $2.5m to date, and now have some revenue coming in to cover operational costs, we are still in fundraising mode and are keen for sponsors to get involved. One opportunity would be to name some of our competitions….we have 22 primary school hockey teams there each Thursday night. Or even consideration to naming parts of our facility.”

Merv advised us thathe has always believed that sport, including the wider social/ emotional/mental aspects of it, can be a life-changing experience. “A private benefactor pledged $200,000 to the Hockey Hibiscus Trust, provided that we run some form of multi-sport programme for nominated youth, with the aim of supporting their mental resilience, personal discipline and general development. This pledge came as no surprise to me as I can see how sport is the ideal way to foster personal growth in youth. I have achieved a lot in sport in my life with coaching, playing and administration from local right up to international level. But I will not be satisfied with the project at Millwater until the social development aim of the project comes into being.”

If you are interested in being involved in the project or would like to consider sponsoring or supporting please contact Merv through hockeyhibiscustrust.org.nz  

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