Shanley, Colin George Interview

Today is the 20th February 2015. I’m interviewing Colin Shanley to give us the life and times of himself and his family. Colin, would you like to give us the story.

Where do I start Frank? I was born in 1939, which makes me 75 at present. I have enjoyed a healthy and happy life so far. I was brought up as a kid in Waipawa, my father being in the Bank at Waipawa, and my mother was sadly in the TB sanatorium in Waipukurau at the time. And I did a – when I was about 11 when we came to Havelock to live and Dad joined the Bank of New Zealand in Hastings as transfer from Waipawa. I started my primary schooling on Waipawa straight after the war or at the beginning of the war – straight after the war – and continued there until I was in Standard 5 and started at Havelock Primary School for my Form 1 and 2 years.

My parents came from the Rangitikei – my father living in Taihape most of his younger life and he went to do his secondary education as a boarder at Nelson College where he excelled at sporting activities. When he finished school he worked in several banks in the Rangitikei. He started his working career in Kimbolton and then to Hunterville where he met my mother, Rhona Higgins, who had spent her younger years, if not all of her life in Waipawa as a young person. She was the daughter of Gertrude and Joe Higgins. She had done her secondary education at Wanganui Girls’ College after schooling her primary years at Hunterville. They were married in their early or mid ’20’s.

They both enjoyed sporting activities so I came from a background of a huge interest in sport and family activities. When I finished my primary education at Havelock School, which in those days catered also for intermediate aged kids because the nearest intermediate school, and they were new in those days, was at Hastings and it was more appropriate for Havelock kids to stay at Havelock than to be bussed into Hastings and so I was fortunate to spend those years as a continuation of my earlier education.

I never succeeded as a student but I certainly succeeded as a young kid in Havelock North with all the activities available to us, and had my fair share of hot spots around the village with friends. We congregated in the summer months at the village pool, as all kids did in Havelock at the time, and it was a pretty good environment for young people. When I finished my primary and intermediate years I went to Nelson College as a boarder from Havelock. It was more appropriate that my brother and I – Bruce who was a year older than me – went to boarding school to make it easier for the family to carry on without Mum, and so I was fortunate to go to a school that was well known for its recreational and sporting activities as well as educational qualities. The school was quite large, a thousand boys in the school, and it was a boys only school. They had a Form 1 and 2 department that had a hundred and so in it, so there were a thousand boys in the senior school and so after a small school like Havelock I was swallowed up in a bigger outfit.

Yes, I can imagine that.

And fortunately for me I lost some of my youthful indiscretions and had to tow the line as a little kid amongst a lot of bigger ones in a boarding establishment that didn’t put up with too much from kids like me.

But I was channelled into sporting activities by choice and fortunately I was able to get by with the student side of the school but spent more time outdoors than indoors and succeeded in several sporting activities. As a senior pupil I settled down and I was a responsible prefect and finished at Nelson College with a few credits and into the wide world not really knowing where to from here.

I finished at the end of my fourth year officially, but when I got home Dad said ‘what are you going to do now?’ I said well I’ll be a builder I think, and he decided perhaps I could do better than that – much as thought that was all I really wanted to do. And between he and the maths master at the school who had also been at the school in my father’s time, they decided that because I had certain abilities in mathematics and was an outdoor person perhaps surveying would be a good role for my future, and so the only difficulty was that I needed university entrance, which I didn’t have because I’d taken two years over school certificate. I found that I didn’t have to work either year and that helped, but I had to go back to get my university entrance which wasn’t quite so funny because Dad made it pretty clear that he wasn’t planning for me to have another year and it was a costly exercise if I didn’t get it – I’d have to answer to him. And so I went back into some schoolwork this time, and fortunately I got accredited university entrance but I was the last kid in the College that was accredited so I was pretty marginal. I thought the guy that was behind me had got it by sitting, but I found out 50 years later that he missed it too, so …

Did he really?

So quite clearly I should never have been accredited, but I think I might have got some help from my sporting activities more so than the school work.


So I had to knuckle down and I finished school, and look[ed] at the qualification side of surveying which was – in those days there was no university course so it had to be done by correspondence. I hadn’t lost my interest in my sporting activities and there was still actively involved in rugby, tennis and swimming. So I found it pretty hard again to get the school work side of things done and as a consequence what should have taken five years took nine. But I did the other things in the meantime as well, so I had a fairly busy existence. Socialising didn’t pass me by either and so as a young person I was back in Havelock with – back in my home town and was able to carry on where I left off.

My main sporting interest was rugby and I was fortunate to join the Havelock Rugby Club straight after school and played in the senior team at the age of 18 and mixed it with the bigger kids from around the village and surrounding areas. I was still a kid but they were adults but they taught me a lot, and I enjoyed about nine years of rugby, post education. I tried to get through the exams as best I could, which I did eventually.

During this time you were working for a surveyor weren’t you? [Phone ringing]

Yes, I joined the firm of Davies Newcombe straight after school, after my secondary schooling, as a cadet and learnt the trade. I was fortunate to be involved with an excellent firm, two partners, one senior, one junior partner. The firm had been established in 1931 by Mr H C Davies – wonderful man – and a guy who I learned a lot from – not only surveying but many other aspects of being a surveyor and being involved with the public. The other partner was Norman Hukin and I worked for Norman and Mr Davies for a good period. Mr Davies was elderly at the time and retired at about three years after I joined the staff at the age of 78, but it was long enough for me to obtain the benefits of having worked for Mr Davies. When Mr Davies retired the partnership was taken over by Norman Hukin and Sandy Thom. Sandy was my senior surveyor and was, supposedly qualifying the same way as I did but was struggling with the book work just like I did. He didn’t continue with the studies after some years and I overhauled Sandy in terms of qualifications and joined Norman Hukin in the partnership in about 1968 when – that was when I qualified.

At that same time I married Shona Hutchinson, who was a local Hutchinson – one of five of the family including her father Percy, and Ray who was well known with the business in town at that time. And Shona had a brother, Owen, who was six years – six or seven years older than her, who I played rugby with, hence becoming acquainted with his little sister. So we married after four years or so courting, and were lucky enough to be able to take over our family home in Lucknow Road in Havelock, which we chose to do because it was then opposite the Iona playing grounds which had been acquired by Iona from a Mrs Sanders who owned the paddock at the time – so we knew that we were never going to be built out and so we were able to buy a modest state house, bungalow, and over time turned it into a relatively large family home.

Having married and spent the first couple of years of our marriage looking forward to family, our first child, Blair was born and two years later, Sarah. They were fortunate to spend their early days, early childhood days at the Havelock North kindergarten, Central Kindergarten and then onto the Havelock North Primary School, where they enjoyed and succeeded as kids, pupils.

In the early stages of development as younger Havelock kids, that started a new form of involvement for me and for Shona, in support of the kids at school and being on the Parents’ Association and School Committees and things and, in particular working bees around the school, which in those days were very much part of school life. And we enjoyed our activities while the kids were there but also the opportunity to meet more people and to become more involved in other things and other aspects of life in Havelock. We made many friends from our kids’ activities and their schooling and sporting – outside sporting activities, and it was a great era. But it was the start of what might become a fairly committed environment or committed part of my life. Because from the schools there’s things like sports, and our kids were involved in swimming and tennis and rugby and netball, so there were school boy and girls’ clubs to promote in that time. We started a netball group with young girls – 5 and 6 year olds which was unheard of in those days. It was very successful and we got the support of the Village community and it was the forerunner to other netball activities.

At the same time the rugby club, all rugby clubs in Hastings took over the rugby activities of the schools and we became very involved in initiating schoolboy rugby for the Havelock Rugby Club and bringing together a large number of parents to support and administer the 12 or 14 teams that the Club had for the Havelock kids for their Saturday rugby during the season. So that was a time consuming but very rewarding way of life for families like ours and there were many, many Havelock families that enjoyed that environment.

The kids were both swimming at this stage and part of the Trojan Swim Team under John Beaumont, who incidentally had coached me when I was that age and in fact I was proudly his first ever pupil and I well remember waking John up at 5 o’clock in the morning in the summer time, doubling him up to the pool on my bike and both of us climbing over the fence to train. So that was the early days of training and we were joined the following year by 20 other kids from around Havelock including the McAra boys and Graham Bourgeois and Michael McClintock and all the kids of Standard 6 of that time.

So it brought back pretty pleasant memories when the kids were doing their thing and then the swimming pool – it was at about 1960 that the community decided that they needed another pool at the old village pool which was built in 1936. Fundraising activities started with a Queen Carnival and all the helpers and work that went into fundraising, and it wasn’t long before the community was able to afford to build the current pool with a lot of drive from the Mayor of the day, Ron Nilsson, and a lot of support from the local builders, Harris & Sons, and Les and the Harris guys even though they hadn’t built pools previously made a great job of the new pool as it was then – it’s still going today – still as good as ever. So that was a two or three year programme of fund raising and commitment to the new pool.

When I left secondary school I went back to the Swimming Club and spent several years down there as an older kid assisting with training activities and flying the swimming club flag for a while. At about that time – or when I left school – I wanted to continue playing tennis and the tennis club had started to waver and they had six grass tennis courts where Karanema Drive now stands and the pavilion that is still there was the pavilion for swimming, cricket, rugby and the tennis club. It was fully utilised by all those groups until cricket and rugby moved down to Anderson Park in about 1960 or 1961 – about the same time as the pool was developed properly.

And so the tennis club was rejuvenated by Denis Goldman who was the new president, I took on the job as secretary and Bill Fletcher was the club captain and we were successful in rebuilding what was a waning membership of the tennis club, and we stayed with the club until they were forced out of the area when Karanema Drive was put through and the tennis club was shifted down to Anderson Park where a new pavilion was built and three or four courts and it is still there today. Sadly, the pavilion was built on a part of the ground which was previously a rubbish dump and it only lasted 10 years or so and had to be pulled down. Now they have their own pavilion that is still standing alongside the squash club which had developed in that time under an incredible, administrative involvement by Jim Newbigin and others. Like many young people in Havelock when the squash Club was opened we all started playing squash – and again we were back at working bees and the like ’til the new Squash Club was opened and it has become a very successful sporting venue in Havelock – well renowned amongst other squash clubs in the country. So in that time squash was an activity that was part and parcel of being a rugby player – but we rugby players tended to play squash the way they played rugby …


And the finer arts passed them by and we relied on rushing around and that sort of thing with our squash activities. We never made particularly good squash players. That was the rugby and squash side of things.

At about the time when the kids – Blair, went from Havelock Primary to Hereworth as a day boy – we felt that he needed just something more – and certainly Hereworth gave him a lot of opportunity to further develop as a kid and he had two years there that were very good for him and then went on to the Havelock High School and he spent four years there excelling at school activities but not brilliant in the classroom – like his father. And Sarah followed on through the Havelock Intermediate School where she achieved a lot as a kid, educationally and in her development. She also went on to the Havelock High School where she played in the various sporting activities, swimming and netball in particular, and succeeded. And she was also head prefect at Havelock High in her time and had good reason to be proud of her for that. Havelock was a good school and it did our two proud.

In the time that the children were going through their intermediate and secondary schooling, again Shona and I were tied up with their activities and with the school environment, be it school boards or working bees. And a lot of Havelock fathers feared being on a committee with me because they knew they were in for working bees. But we were able to do a lot to help with the activities of the school and in particular the playground and sporting activities.

From there things tend to escalate and because you are so involved in the community you end up doing things that you never thought you’d become involved in, and I became involved in local government and became a Councillor in Havelock, and had three terms on that – firstly under Jeff Whittaker as Mayor and for the next two terms under Harry Romanes as Mayor. And we had a wonderful group of councillors who were all local people, committed to the community and committed to making Havelock a better place to live in and bring up families in. We believe we succeeded as a group in this field and we thoroughly enjoyed being part of the development of Havelock.

Maybe at that stage you made – seeing you left the pavilion sitting there – because that became a project of yours too. Seeing the tennis club no one had a use for, but Colin saw a community use for it. Would you like to develop that?

Yes, it follows on from Havelock Council and amalgamation because in 1989 Havelock was forced to merge with Hastings City and Hawke’s Bay County to a Hastings District Council, and Havelock as of right had two representatives on the Council, and initially Harry Romanes and I went to the Council as elected representatives for Havelock, and had the task of endeavouring to achieve worthwhile outcomes for Havelock in this wider authority, and we believed that we were able to do this to the best of our ability. And we found that the staff that went from the Havelock Borough to the Hastings District were good quality staffing members and we were proud to think that we had developed a unit in Havelock that was worthy of contributing significantly towards the Hastings District Council. I had two terms at the Council and had chairman responsibilities in those two terms under Mayor Jeremy Dwyer, who we all held in the highest regard, and the merge of two authorities became a well-identified and successful district council.

However, we couldn’t let Havelock look after itself and it was important that we promoted Havelock and this new authority as best we could, and it led to a number of things. In the earlier years in about the ’70s or ’80s the Havelock community decided they needed a standalone, well equipped and identifiable library and the Council at the time proposed that it would be constructed by special rating. Several people in the community decided that that shouldn’t be the case and there was a poll or referendum that prevented the Council from the library being developed from the rating funding. But immediately those same people initiated a proposal for it to become a community project and immediately they set about raising funds – significant amount of money for a library and over a period of over a year or two a committee was set up under – Jeff Whittaker was it? – and it involved a good number of local people including yours truly and Frank Cooper and others who were able to generate considerable funding through community projects and grants to build, debt free, the library which of course became a focal point of the community. And again, because we were all local people and good friends it was made easy to get the funding that was required and those of us that were involved will never forget the satisfaction and pleasure we have from being part of it.

And after amalgamation it became apparent that Havelock needed a community centre to retain some of their identity and so the two councillors – Harry and myself – convinced the Hastings City Council that there should be some opportunity for grants and funding that would establish a community centre. We set about setting up an establishment committee including ourselves, again Frank Cooper …

No I wasn’t on that.

Mark von Dadelszen, Cyril Whittaker … we’ll identify those further down the track.


And again there was fundraising attached to it and we saw fit to gain Paris Magdalinos to do the plans and at the same time provide for what might be a third stage – the first stage being the library, second stage the community centre and possibly one day a theatre for the arts. And Paris came up with a brilliant concept and we adopted the Community Centre component, proceeded with that and today it is a very lively and worthwhile asset for the village and a focal point that is badly needed to retain the identity that we were anxious to achieve.

So that was another involvement that was good for the village, it was good for us, and although I vacated my position as a trustee when the building work started – because I felt that the current councillors from Havelock at that time should be automatically on that community board, I vacated my position – but have since been taken back on board to replace other retiring trustees and I am still involved in the Community Centre today in terms of its running and its activities. We are being well administered by our chairman, Fred Sanders, we have a strong committee, and we have a very good staff of two ladies who run the Centre. And we have caterers that have the rights to the catering within the facility. So, again, it’s a very worthwhile asset for the community.

Well it’s been one of the success stories of the village hasn’t it? 

It has yes.

And you can see going on and on without any major changes except possibly for the addition of the third stage. 

Yes, that’s right. And to highlight that, two years ago, so that was 2013, the Havelock Primary School had their 150th jubilee and it was held at the School and the Community Centre and proved to be a huge success and a wonderful opportunity to bring kids from Havelock back into the community for such an important event. And I had the pleasure of being the chairman of that committee to establish the jubilee and it was a resounding success. So again another very worthwhile involvement in Havelock.

Over the years I have been a member of the Havelock North Rotary Club and again I’ve enjoyed five or six years of very pleasant activities with other local people, fundraising and the ‘do good’ work that Rotary does along with other community organisations. But again, it was a very fulfilling and rewarding period. I completed my term at Rotary when I became a Havelock Borough Councillor in the interests of time.

During this period of family and community involvement, you never lost your want to be a builder. You did a lot of building around home didn’t you? 

Yes, for better or for worse. The downside to it was that Shona was forever putting up with walls being taken out and things happening that were disruptive to normal home life and unfortunately that hasn’t really stopped, so I am lucky to have had two different environments – a working environment and a home environment, but my home environment was more to do with building and gardening. I’m never happier than when I have a hammer in my hand.

So there you are – that first interest has stayed with you right through. 

Needless to say we are still in that same place today and will be for a few years yet, a worthy family home and it’s great to have everybody back, and our grandchildren, to enjoy what has been a commitment, a lot of hard work and pretty messy environment in between times – at times.

And while we’re on this note I think you should talk about the day you said you were going to go for a bike ride – just tell us something about that bike ride will you?

When I was 50 I had an unscheduled bike ride from Whakatane to Tauranga which I enjoyed immensely although it was hard work. When I got off the bike after four hours of non-stop riding I found I couldn’t walk, but that came right fairly quickly, but I decided that when I was 70 I was going to cycle from Cape Reinga to Bluff as a way to offset old age. I mentioned it to a mate from rugby days and he said, ‘well I’ll come with you when you do it’, and I knew that he would do that. So, five or six years later time marched on and when I was 69 I decided I had to put my money where my mouth was and so I started learning to ride a bike again with this trip in mind. The family found they couldn’t talk me out of it and so they bought me the bike for my birthday to help me on my way and Lila and I got into a training routine and we were delighted to carry on with the bike ride, which we did in February five years ago whenever that was – when was that Frank?


2010. And about this time five years ago we were probably about Christchurch somewhere, but anyway we succeeded in our bike ride and it was 26 days on end, at an average mileage of 90 kilometres a day, and we got to Bluff in one piece and we had done the journey without any spills, without any mishaps and even without a puncture. We look back on that as a – one of the most rewarding and satisfying times of our lives. Our wives joined us for the full trip and thoroughly enjoyed it too and it was something quite special and next week we will be celebrating our 5th anniversary which we do every year.

Yes, we were all very proud of you too – as a community – ’cause no one else had done it. 

Well, it was a bit unheard of. And I might say too that we both got there without sore bums, much to everybody’s amazement, and I wasn’t going to do it as a lycra cyclist with a hi-tech bike. Mine was just an ordinary road bike with a good gearing system and my attire was a Mitre10 shirt and beach shorts and tennis shoes. So I stuck out like a sore toe as a non-cyclist – didn’t make it less rewarding.

A lot of your community activities and family activities broadly covered – would you like to move back on to the business from when, I guess, you took over? 

Yes – I mentioned earlier – in about 1968 I think it was, I joined the partnership and we changed the firm name from Davies & Hukin to Hukin & Shanley and after that – we were the only surveyors in Hastings still, and we had a very good mixture of work which was very rewarding. Because we were the only surveyors around Norman Hukin decided after two years to return to England for a period – he had emigrated when he first came here in – or after the war, early ’50s or about 1950, and so he decided to return home to see where to from here. So I carried the firm on in the name of Shanley & Co and we’re still here today and we have retained the same type of work. We’ve got more opposition today than we had then of course, but we’ve had an incredible staff in that time, and I’m … was supposed to have retired at the end of last year but it hasn’t worked out that way and I’m pretty pleased to still be here. So, who knows in another year or two perhaps – it remains to be seen.

Now in your time as a surveyor Colin you’ve seen some major changes from standard measure to decimal – oh, metric to now in the world of digitals and I guess with your surveying guns or whatever you call them – that has been hugely different. 

Yes, when I first started there were … surveyors measured lines with a steel band, in other words a big long tape measure, and they were between five chains or ten chains long. There was a standard procedure – theodolites were quite basic of course, and then there was a change to metrication from links – and links for horizontal measure, and feet and inches for vertical heights and the new measurement of metres for both heights and horizontal distances were adopted. But at the same time the plan system changed from a hand-drawn coloured plan on parchment to what we call black and white plans – two different plans, one for the survey content and one for the title content, or the boundaries. It took a while to settle in but it worked well and then of course electronic measurement came in where you push a button and it measures the distance. And even in the early days it was incredible to think you could measure within a millimetre of accuracy up to a distance of even two and a half kilometres. And those systems have been refined today and things are a lot smaller and more compact and the clip on potential to transfer directly from the instrument to computers is amazing. Again there’s been a change in plans and methods because it is entirely computerised. I’ve let that side of it pass me by because I’m busy enough administering and the staff are well involved in the more modern techniques which of course are compulsory. And so it’s a very different environment than when I first started, and we saw the black and white system change in the middle of it as well, so in my time there have been two major changes in the way we do things and it’s forever changing, with new software and also hardware, but it’s still an intriguing and satisfying environment.

During the period that you’ve been involved Colin, there’s been the biggest growth and development of subdivisions and so forth in Hawke’s Bay … would you just like to make a comment about that? We’ve seen villages and towns and small cities grow into big cities, big villages? 

When I first came to Havelock as I kid there were 3,500 people in Havelock. Now there is 15,000 and this has all been growth and development around a village centre. We’ve been a huge part of that over all that period. I have good reason to feel proud of the part that we played in these residential growth areas, and the quality of property in Havelock that the Havelock people enjoy. Hastings has expanded too of course, around the perimeters and there’s been a lot of infill subdivision and the existing developed areas and it’s grown into a hugely satisfying residential, retail and industrial growth centre and it will be interesting to see where to from here because of the protected plains surrounding Hastings. Having said that we have played a big part in the subdivision and further development of productive areas, orcharding areas, vineyards, larger grazing areas that have been converted to more productive annual cropping, permanent cropping, and it extends right out to Maraekakaho and the entire Heretaunga Plains and the production is huge. By comparison we have some really committed producers in this district, they’re well known. They are accumulating property and they are hugely productive. We are now seeing more external capital coming in to allow this growth of development to continue, but a lot of people in the area do not realise how significant these producers have been in the last 20 or so years, and how we depend on their knowledge and ability and expertise, because it flows off into the retail centres obviously, but there are a lot of manufacturers in this area that are supporting these industries and building these complexes. And we’re pretty self-sufficient here.

From my working life, as it comes to an end I have had a huge satisfaction in doing what I’ve done. We’ve had incredible people working with us at this establishment, and we have a fraternity in the survey world that we worked together closely with and it’s been a hugely satisfying working environment for me, I’ve been lucky.

This company started in … you mentioned back in ..? 


’31. So that’s 76 years old. That’s a … and it is the oldest surveying company in Hawke’s Bay?  

Yes it will be.

Yes, there’s no one in Napier older than this.  So that’s really a great record Colin, and from here – as you’ve been threatening for some time now to retire – but you enjoy what you’re doing?  Yes, I can understand … so on that note Colin, I’ll say thank you very much and wish you well in the company in the future and we’ll sign off.  Thank you.

Just one footnote – one of the incredible things about this firm is that since 1931 it has only had three licensed partners – that’s Harry Davies, Norman Hukin and myself which is quite remarkable. And I’m extremely thankful that I’ve been very fortunate health-wise and I’ve not only been contented and happy with what I’ve been doing, but it’s been hugely rewarding and I’ve been fit and healthy in all that time and I can be very thankful.

And the field staff haven’t changed that regularly either have they? 

Well, you know – Frank’s been here for over 40 years and Aaron Britten has been here for 25 years, so we’re all home-grown, Frank.


And proud of it.

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Interviewer:  Frank Cooper

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