Since 2005, the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show Hall of Fame has been celebrating members of the New Zealand marine industry who’ve made exceptional contributions to its growth and reputation. Deserving recipients are inducted at the annual Boat of the Show Awards function, held each year on the Saturday night of the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show.
Members of the New Zealand Boat Show Hall of Fame are selected for their contributions to both the New Zealand Boat Show and the marine industry over several decades, and this year, Bob Tait of Diversified Products, joined the list of inductees. Here, Bob tells us in his own words about his long contribution to New Zealand’s marine industry.
Bob Tait was the first member of the New Zealand Marine Industry Association to be granted life membership (in 2013 Ian Cook was granted the same honour); an honour bestowed after long years of service. Tait served seven years as president, two as vice president and many years as chairman of the Industry Training Organisation (ITO).
As chairman of the ITO, Tait was instrumental in the development of NZ Marine’s modern apprenticeship co-ordinator scheme which, through visitation of field officers to every apprentice and employee on a regular basis, has proven so successful.
“Bob had a lot of confidence in the marine industry’s power status within the New Zealand economy and this was demonstrated when he asked me to lobby Government to change the daylight saving time. I thought he was joking but he wasn’t and the daylight savings time has subsequently been changed allowing boaties more time out on the water! Bob stretched our imagination as to what we could achieve and made a great contribution to the NZ Marine Industry,” says NZ Marine Industry executive director, Peter Busfield.
From early beginnings.
“It was an accident that I got involved in the recreational marine industry,” says Tait. In 1973 I was employed by the Cookes Wire Rope Group of companies selling wire rope and steel castings for the construction, logging, mining and earthmoving industries. The parent company also owned a business in Wellington called Houghs Ships Supplies which the management wanted me to run. As a result, I transferred to Wellington from Auckland into a totally different working environment – and my first taste of the marine industry. Houghs were engaged in provisioning Japanese tuna and squid boats.
The business supplied food stuffs, liquor, tobacco, engine room parts, deck fittings and parts and anything else the crew required after six weeks at sea fishing, I had gone to night language classes and learnt the basics of the Japanese language, giving me the confidence to communicate with my Japanese customers. I remained with the business until around 1984 at which time I resigned and started in business on my own.
Aquatic Wholesale Ltd was the business, and several contracts moved with me from my old employer which was not performing in the market place. The business continued to prosper until the New Zealand Government changed zoning which in essence, pushed the fleet way out to sea. In 1987 my wife and I decided it was time to diversify and started to stock lines for the recreational and commercial fishing industry. This was our entry into the recreational marine industry. We progressed from here, increasing the lines as a result of many visits to the Chicago Trade Boat Show in the USA. Business was good and by about 1990 we were in our own building and had some seven staff on the payroll.
In early ’92 we sold the business of Aquatic Wholesale Ltd to the Boat City Group of companies but retained the ships’ provisions business which operated under the name of Bob Tait & Son Ltd. The buyout of Aquatic Wholesale Ltd never reached maturity, so in 1994 we bought back the business of Aquatic Wholesale Ltd along with the distributorship of Tohatsu Outboards for New Zealand and set up a new banner under the name of Diversified Products NZ Ltd, which is the name we trade under to this day, 30 years later.
In 2000, we relocated the business from Wellington city to Porirua and erected a 750 square metre warehouse along with 150 square metres of showroom and office; and we still operate from this site today.
The support of the MIA
From 1994 I travelled extensively throughout New Zealand visiting potential customers and establishing contacts. Overseas travel to the USA and Japan on a regular basis took place as I had principals that I was responsible to in both countries. Visits to other parts of Asia; Taiwan, Hong Kong and Europe were also on the list, to maintain our presence at the major annual trade shows.
The result of that international travel, were the strong bonds I formed with fellow members of the New Zealand industry taking their products to their world. Those who had a major influence were Colin Polglase of Russell & Sommers Shipping in Wellington, Frank Simpson of Figlass, Ian Williamson of Sports Marine, Phil Butler of Boat City, Ken Lusty of Lusty & Blundell, Lionel Sands & Dennis Kendal of Haines Hunter, John Street of Fosters, Tom Kane of RFD, Murray Barrett of Absolute Marine, Mike Hodson of ENL, Alan Russell of Reflex Products, Gerry Gerrand of Buccaneer Boats. They were all also members of the BIA, as it was known then. I decided that if I could get on the BIA’s committee, I would enhance my knowledge of the industry and increase my communication skills with potential customers.
I was eventually elected to the committee, serving first while Ken Lusty held the presidency. I remained in some form or other on these committees, moving up the ladder to vice president and then president for seven years consecutively. I was then chairman of the Boating Industry Training Organisation, became an honorary life member and still remain a board member today after more than 20 years.
As a keen boatie I am passionate about getting more people into boating and for this reason I was also instrumental in the development of the NZ Marine initiative Discover Boating, which via boat show displays and the website www.discoverboating.co.nz is helping more New Zealanders get out on the water.
The members of the industry were a major part of my business and the investment of time that I made into the industry on a voluntary basis, came back to me tenfold with increased business and the many friendships I gained throughout New Zealand and the world
Only 20% of people put up their hands to be involved in boards and associations without remuneration and I am one of them. My rewards came from seeing companies succeeding and from watching apprentices passing their final exams and being capped at the BITO graduation evenings.
Collecting the Hall of Fame award
It was something that I had never really expected. My upbringing was from within a middle class family of seven children so we were always aware that unless you achieved, the end result was never there. This award confirmed exactly that. Without the support of my parents, my siblings, my wife Jill and our children, my staff, my customers and my fellow MIA Members, none of this would have been possible.
To summarise, the award is recognition of how much the industry has matured and on this occasion I am so proud to have accepted this award on behalf of all those people I have mentioned in this overview. And I can be sure there will be people I have missed. Awards of this nature confirm that the NZ Marine Industry Association we belong to is heading in the correct direction and we need to ensure that we use these accolades to enhance all the good work done by our voluntary committees for the good of the industry.
You can read more about the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show, Hall of Fame Awards, here.