There is nothing like having your tender (dinghy) start to fail while sailing around the world to recognise a critical gap in the market.

Within six months of starting out in 2006 on their 40ft Catamaran called Moonwalker, long term Paihia residents Karin and Russell Carlyon spent a lot of their journey “bailing, patching, inflating, nursing and cursing their inflatable tender”.

After seven years circumnavigating the globe the couple resettled in Paihia and established Offshore Cruising Tenders (OC Tenders) Limited – this year’s recipient of the $30k Top Energy Business Development Fund.

Drawing on Russell’s experience in windsurf board construction, the company has developed a tender that will help meet the exacting standards of skippers cruising around the world.

Made of high-tech composite construction, the tenders are essentially built in the same way as the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race boats, which they say will “satisfy serious offshore cruising sailors as well as the more casual boating enthusiasts”.

Already OC Tenders is making quite a splash on the local and international market since the company was established in 2015.

Karin says that meeting customer demand is a welcome challenge and they are in the process of constructing a purpose built factory in Haruru Falls in the Bay of Islands. Which, they say, is an excellent location for servicing the needs of the cruising market upon their arrival into the country and prior to their departure as Opua is one of the busiest entry points into the country for cruises.

The new factory is clear evidence of Karin and Russell’s commitment to the area and will create opportunities for local employment, training and growth, which is a key selection requirement of the Top Energy grant.

Currently, the company has one full time staff member and expect that by the end of the first year they will have a minimum of four full time employees, topping up at about nine, including three trainees to sustain planned growth.

The couple envision the factory becoming a hub for innovation and composite creativity in the region. Karin describes the grant as a game changer for the company enabling them to investigate new technology immediately.

She says that currently the manufacturing process is labour intensive using a ‘hand layup’ technique where the resin liquid is pressed and soaked in the fibreglass cloth by hand and then vacuumed to create the PVC foam sandwich.

They intend to use the grant to apply new technology to their manufacturing process to increase production capacity by an expected 57% in the first year alone to a peak of 155 boats annually.

Techniques they are investigating include resin infusion and resin transfer moulding which will take away the need for lamination – a labour and training intensive part of the manufacturing process, which also includes exposure to fumes and chemical material.

Chief Executive Russell Shaw says every year it is becoming more difficult to choose winners amongst the stand out applications they receive.

In a departure from the usual selection process, Top Energy has awarded a Judges Commendation Award of $10k to Jennifer Ives of Green Footed Kiwi, in acknowledgment of her passion and vision for Trefoil Park in Kaikohe.

Previously a Girl Guide campground, Jennifer is in the process of transforming the 200 acre bush block with a meandering river into a self-sufficient permaculture paradise and tourist destination.

The park will offer space for large group camping, the odd, totally secluded, off-grid glamping spot, mini petting farm, an abundance of fruit and vegetables and easy walking and cycling access to established native bush.

It is part of the Kaikohe renaissance with many new businesses becoming established and a core group of locals working hard to put Kaikohe back on the map.

Jennifer intends to re-establish the existing trails and widen them to accommodate mountain bikes to maximise the Northland cycling boom triggered by the Twin Coast Cycleway and Waitangi Mount Bike Park. Tired cyclists will have a place to stay, hot showers, and good company to see them on their way.

She describes Trefoil Park as a place to enjoy and become a part of nature. A space to make memories, have adventures, and continue the great work started by the Girl Guides. It also offers excellent community amenity and Jennifer welcomes locals to run courses and hold workshops.

The park is opening on Labour Day (20 October) with an Adventure Run through the property and option of camping for the weekend.

The award will be used to upgrade the driveway which Jennifer says will open the space for other opportunities such as a regular rural farmers market, music festival or a major events venue. She is also keen to hold family bonding events.

Mr Shaw says it is a great time for businesses to leverage the growing optimism in Northland as demonstrated by the Westpac-McDermott Miller Regional Economic Confidence survey for the June 2018 quarter and the $46 million package funding through the Provincial Growth Fund.

He encourages local businesses to put their applications in the next round for the Top Energy Business Development Grant in September.

Grants of up to $30,000 are awarded twice a year for local business ideas or initiatives that have the potential to grow or diversify the Far North economy. The money is either awarded in full to a single stand-out idea or in smaller amounts to several initiatives, depending on the number, quality and merit of the applications received.

For more information on OC Tenders go to: www.octenders.co.nz

For more information on Green Footed Kiwi go to: www.greenfootedkiwi.co.nz

For more information on the business development fund go to:  www.topenergy.co.nz/sponsorship/business-development-fund

For more information contact: Philippa White, 021 2418740