Hawke's Bay man becomes Knight

By Patrick O'Sullivan

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Graeme Avery says his knighthood is a testament to the support of family and colleagues. Phoro/Paul Taylor
Graeme Avery says his knighthood is a testament to the support of family and colleagues. Phoro/Paul Taylor

Becoming the region's latest knight is a "humbling surprise" for Hawke's Bay businessman and wine buff Graeme Avery.

But his award - being made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business and sport - is no twilight honour.

"There is still a lot to achieve with business endeavours with Sileni Estates and sports involvement, especially the Institute of Sport in Auckland. We have to continue to develop it and provide new structure and support for emerging talent," Mr Avery told Hawke's Bay Today.

He was one of eight Bay people to be honoured in today's Queen's Birthday Honours.

Since moving to Hawke's Bay in 1999 he and wife Gabrielle had become enthusiastic "regionalists".

"We have a belief that we can best get New Zealand right by maximising the potential of the regions and Hawke's Bay has a lot of unrealised potential."

The entrepreneur said agri-business, added-value food products and inbound tourism were "waiting to be properly harnessed".

His knighthood was recognition for those who had worked with and supported him. "I see the award as more a recognition for my wife and family and all those who have supported me in the last 50 or so years," he said. "You can never do business alone and you can't do your community involvement alone. Business staff, all the people in sport and here in Hawke's Bay all the people in the Food Group that I established and Wine Country Tourism - they deserve that recognition as well. It is as much for them as it is for me as an individual."

He has been involved with athletics in New Zealand for more than 40 years at club, regional, national and international levels. He transformed medical publishing company Adis International into a $100million world-leading business before leaving to start award-winning Sileni Estates in Hawke's Bay and Marlborough.

Mr Avery led the fundraising campaign to create the AUT Millennium Institute of Sport & Health - now the National Training Centre for high performance sport. He also founded the Hawke's Bay Food Group, the Hawke's Bay Farmers' Market and led the formation of the Hawke's Bay Wine Country Tourism Association.

He is a member of the New Zealand National Food Wine and Tourism Network, serving as chairman from 2005 to 2007.

From 2011 to 2012 Mr Avery served as a member of the Massey University Riddett Institute Thought Leadership Group on enhancing the agri-business sector in New Zealand with a food and beverage growth strategy. In August he will be inducted into the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame.

He was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business and sport in 2007, was inducted into the Enterprise North Shore Business Hall of Fame in 2005 and was North and South magazine's New Zealander of the Year in 2002.

He said the knighthood was a genuine surprise. "You can never put your name up for these things so it was a pleasant, humbling surprise."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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