My name is Theo Simeonidis. I have a number of organisations and projects with which I am closely associated and enjoy promoting:
The New Zealand-born son of Greek refugee immigrants who came here in 1951 and soon moved to Christchurch, where Theo grew up and went to school and university. “I am proud of having the best of both worlds,” Theo
told us, “The Greek culture – the music, the food, the dancing, the history; and I love having grown up in New Zealand.”
Originally qualified with a Bachelor of Forestry Science (Hons) from Canterbury University and started my career with the NZ Forest Service. I completed a post-graduate Master of Public Policy degree (Victoria University of Wellington), and from 1987 was company secretary of the NZ Forestry Corporation group of companies. This was start of the commercialisation of State trading departments during the era of “Rogernomics” in the mid-1980s. That was a fascinating journey, during which I learnt lots from an excellent board of private sector business leaders. After the Government sold off the forests in 1990, I took up the role of Chief Executive of the Cement & Concrete Association, then was appointed Chief Executive of Federated Farmers of New Zealand.
This later followed a spell owning and operating my own award-winning hospitality business in Wellington Theo’s Greek Taverna from 1997 to 2006.
It was here my wife, Cristina, and I would enjoy performing Greek music and dance. Why do we love performing music? Simply, music is an international language of peace. No matter one's race, ethnicity, politics or socio-economic status, music can touch the heart of anyone and everyone, as it has done for centuries.
After moving to Auckland in 2005, I undertook consultancy work in the communications/Internet industry and then founded UProtectNZ Insurance Services with my wife Cristina. Since 2012 I have been the driving force behind the growth of UProtectNZ, which has developed strong reputation for providing quality service.
What is your organisation/project and what motivated you to start it?
As a recent resident, having moved to Millwater in late 2015, I was keen to become involved in a local community or service group. The Rotary Satellite Club of Orewa-Millwater offered that opportunity and was considering projects that it could undertake. I offered to create and organise an annual Greek Extravaganza fundraiser for Hibiscus Hospice which showcases Greek cuisine, beverages, live music and dancing floorshows in traditional costume: a Greek cultural experience. The first event in 2017 was a great success and needed to move to larger premises at the Orewa Arts & Events Centre, with a 250-seat capacity. The annual Greek Extravaganza has now become a very strongly-recognised brand on the Hibiscus Coast and the wider Auckland region, being a total sell-out each year over two months before the event.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
I find it extremely satisfying simply helping people or worthy causes. I have loved being the driving force behind the annual Greek Extravaganza and to successfully deliver it required working with many volunteers from Rotary, Hospice, local Clubs, colleges etc. It’s enjoyable working with others to help raise funds for such worthy organisations such as Hibiscus Hospice and I feel very privileged to be able to use my Greek culture as a catalyst to do this.
What do you find most challenging/frustrating with what you do?
I don’t find anything challenging or frustrating. If you know what you are doing, how to schedule events, engage reliable people to work with, and can execute a project through to completion, it’s absolutely exhilarating and very satisfying. 2020 was a challenging year (COVID) but despite this, by careful planning we were blessed with an amazing outcome in raising almost $24,000 for Hospice.
How has your organisation/project developed and what would you like to see in the future?
From its creation in 2017, I have always seen the annual Greek Extravaganza as becoming a well-recognised and widely-supported brand. We have succeeded in this over the four years it’s been held, and this year’s event in December 2021 will be the 5th. While the event is promoted each year as the Greek Extravaganza we create a different theme each year in order to showcase different elements of Greek cultural history and create ongoing interest.
The 2021 theme is already identified and will in due course be announced and publicised. It will be a theme which resonates profoundly with all New Zealanders and Greeks.
What would you like to promote around your organisation/project?
We have developed our own very successful Internet, website, social media marketing and positioning programme which has seen our last two events sold out 10 weeks and 8 weeks before the event. Nevertheless, any additional promotional exposure for the event would be appreciated, at the appropriate time in the annual promotional cycle.
Aside from this, it would be great if the Rotary Satellite Club of Orewa-Millwater can be promoted. This is a great, informal club, which is not subject to the strictures and constraints of “traditional” Rotary clubs. It has a great gender mix as well as all ages in its membership. The club meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month at 7.00pm at The Wade Tavern, Tavern Rd, Silverdale, but members can gather (if they wish) at 6.00pm for a meal/drink to enjoy good companionship before the 1-hour meeting starts at 7.00pm. Contact: Secretary Caroline Wilding 027 748 0512.
My motto? "When I'm travelling overseas, I always take my mandolin with me as interpreter. It speaks every language on Earth".