The latest knight claimed by Hawke's Bay-Wairarapa iwi Ngāti Kahungunu says he could have ended up a washed-up rock singer if it wasn't for a meeting in 1989 which led him to found world-leading computerised media graphics operation Animation Research.
From Raupunga in Hawke's Bay, but living in the South Island for more than 40 years, Sir Ian Taylor told the New Zealand Herald after his elevation was announced in the New Year Honours on Thursday, that meeting was with Otago University professor Geoff Wyvill, who told him the future was about going digital.
"I had no idea what he was talking about," recalls Taylor, who first achieved fame as early-1970s lead singer with Wellington-Wairarapa group Kal-Q-Lated Risk, after high school years at St Joseph's College in Masterton and dropping out of business studies at Wellington's Victoria University in 1968, and before compulsory military training and returning to study to complete a law degree at Otago University.
The Mk II Taylor was a television presenter synonymous with children's programmes Play School and Spot On, and Mk III the now 30 years of advanced experimentation made famous by New Zealand's transformation of TV coverage of America's Cup yachting, in tune with the yachties' triumphs in actually winning the Auld Mug.
Now Sir Ian Taylor becomes one of at least five living knights or dames claimed by Ngāti Kahungunu, each substantially invested in education.
Others are Dame Georgina Kirby DBE, QSO (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire 1994), Sir Jeremiah Mateparae, GNZM, QSO, KStJ (Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit 2011), Sir Pita Sharples KNZM, CBE (Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit 2015), Dame Georgina Kingi DNZM QSO (Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit 2017), and Sir Timoti Karetu KNZM, QSO (Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit 2017).
Two years ago the iwi invested in Animated Research to develop a virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) model for numeracy and literacy which had been trialled in Otago Prison resulting in 100 per cent success rate and which the iwi wanted developed across all sectors, and particularly to improve numeracy and literacy among its own people.
In 2019, Taylor, who had in 2012 been awarded the CNZM, was appointed a director of Ngāti Kahungunu Asset Holding Co.
He told the Herald that in 1989 Wyvill gave him his four top students and together they created a company which has revolutionised the viewing of golf, cricket, yachting, motor sport and baseball with its 3D, data-driven graphics over live pictures from the Virtual Eye sports division that is featured in America's Cup coverage this summer.
"I wouldn't be here today if I hadn't met Geoff; this would never have happened," he said, emphasising it had been the team of people behind him that led to him being made a knight, recognising his services to broadcasting, business and the community.
The same four remain with him, and he said: "This would never have happened without those people."
Taylor, who describes himself as a story-teller, shared the news with his team on Wednesday and said he wanted them to hear it from him first.
He was to celebrate with a traditional barbecue which he holds every New Year with friends and family in Wānaka, and said: "We will just do what we did last year."
He mulled over whether he wanted to be called "Sir", but said it came with accepting the honour.
"If you are going to say yes you have to respect the honour that it is. I'm very honoured to accept it."
But he says he has been Ian for the past 70 years and that's not likely to change.
"I imagine I will get a ribbing for a few weeks then it will go back to Ian," he said.
Of both Kahungunu and Ngāpuhi descent, he was born in Northland, in a house without power, and brought up around Raupunga, between Napier and Wairoa.
It was the time on the road with the band that landed him in Dunedin, and he said: "In the Risk, we travelled all over the country and the best place we played in was Dunedin - the Ag Hall and Ocean Beach Hotel."
He worked as a forklift driver at Speights Brewery, and following the other stages he was offered a current affairs job but couldn't bring himself to leave Dunedin.
Instead, he formed Taylormade Productions, making regional television commercials and corporate videos, and when TVNZ closed its Dunedin studios, he bought them with a $500,000 bank loan and made children's television shows.
Animation Research was founded when Taylor met Wyvill who ran the Computer Science Department, and computer graphics laboratory, at Otago University, Taylormade forming a joint venture with the university in one of the first attempts to turn academic intellectual property into a commercial activity; later Taylormade bought all the university shares.
Its first TV advertising images included the Bluebird water-skiing penguin, seagulls on a Cook Strait fast ferry, and gannets forming a koru.
This year the business had to evolve to tackle the issue of not being able to travel to sports tournaments and can now cover sport remotely from Dunedin.
Animation Research received the award for "outstanding new approaches in sports broadcasting" at the 2015 Sports Emmy Awards for their development of the America's Cup mobile application, in 2019 Taylor was named the 2019 New Zealand Innovator of the Year, and in 2020 was acclaimed the Deloitte Top 200 Visionary Leader.