December 2, 2022

Our People: Lance Nepia (Rural Design)

When Lance Nepia (Te Uri o Hau) talks of growing up overlooking the Otamatea River from the vantage point of his whānau land, his passion for the area and the environment is clear.

Now that he has the chance to play an integral part in the worlds’ second largest (and Aotearoa’s largest) harbour restoration project in the Kaipara Moana Remediation Programme, that passion is growing by the day.

Lance’s best mate Blake Worsfold, Rural Design’s General Manager, encouraged him to join the team six years ago and Lance is now in charge of a 20-strong team.

But it is a far cry from the adrenalin rush of his career as a professional chef.

“I grew up with Blake and his brothers but I moved away from the area to do a chef apprenticeship when I was 20. I quite enjoyed the lifestyle but after 15 years it was time to come back to the North,” says Lance.

Lance is now settled at Mangawhai with his wife Nena, a local vet, and sons Tane (19) and Luca (14).

“When we moved back I was running a food truck in summer and came here to Rural Design in winter to keep busy.”

Lance ended up in the nursery and then took on managing the business unit.

“The business has grown really big, really quick. I remember before my time it was a little nursery, so it has been cool to be part of the growth. You get to see a lot of local people working here which is pretty cool. I am a bit of a people person, the whole KMR project is about people working with people and helping each other.”

“Being able to get locals into something they might not have previously had a shot at and sparking an interest in them at the same time is really satisfying.”

“The Kaipara is a big part of me. It is my home and these people are making it healthier and better through their efforts with KMR. It is good to see the efforts going into improving the health of the water and the fisheries.”

While acknowledging there is a long way to go on the decade-long journey to improving the health and mauri of the Kaipara Moana in helping reverse ongoing environmental degradation by halving sediment loss from land to sea, Lance says the kaupapa is fast heading in the right direction.

“I used to enjoy getting out there and planting with our crews but with our growth I am very much here at head office on a daily basis organising the nursery and our staff.”

“The KMR conversations are pretty positive. Everyone has the same love for the Kaipara Harbour. It’s about our kids isn’t it? We want them to go down and enjoy the harbour we did as children. It is about the future.

“I want to be able to say in ten years that I played a small part in turning the health of the Kaipara catchment and Kaipara harbour around – out of respect for my parents and my grandparents. And of course our children are our future. We need to leave a legacy,” says Lance.

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