Business bosses join military operation

By Katie Holland -
Joe La Grouw. Photo / Ben Fraser
Joe La Grouw. Photo / Ben Fraser

Rotorua businessman Joe La Grouw Jnr is preparing himself for the unknown - a military operation to Kiribati.

The Lockwood chairman will board an air force plane at Whenuapai Airbase on Sunday, joining about 12 other employers from throughout the country taking part in Exercise Boss Lift 2013.

The Boss Lift employers will observe work being done by the New Zealand Defence Force's Reserve Forces on their annual joint exercise with the United States. This year, the reservists will be building bridges - literally - as well as renovating health clinics and schools in Kiribati.

Mr La Grouw said he got a call from Tauranga lawyer Bill Holland, who is a member of the Territorial Force Employers Support Council, asking him if he would be interested in going on the trip.

Despite not knowing too many details, he immediately said yes.

"It's really all about humanitarian aid for people in those small island nations that are very remote from anywhere and have got very little... which I am firmly in favour of," he said.

He said he was involved in numerous trusts and organisations that helped the local community, so it was good to support the same being done overseas.

Despite travelling regularly on business, Mr La Grouw said he didn't often travel overseas on leisure and had never been to the islands.

His role will be firmly limited to observing, he said, while gaining an awareness of the contribution made by reservists - men and women who have careers in the defence force in parallel to civilian jobs.

Mr Holland said inviting influential employers on the four-day trip to Kiribati was an exercise by the military to show employers what reservists did and why giving them time off work for missions such as this was so worthwhile.

He said Exercise Boss Lift had been running about four years and was a positive interface between the military and the business community.

Mr Holland said Mr La Grouw's name was suggested as he was a respected Rotorua businessman.

"If he speaks well of it [reservists], people will listen."

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