This year's Top Energy Business Development Fund grant has been landed by Messina Trustees Ltd., a commercial fish receiver, owner of two commercial fishing vessels and a strong contributor to growth in Northland.

Operating as the Medea Fishing Company Ltd, brothers Adam (Russell) and Nat Davey (Cable Bay) have been working in the Northland fishing industry since they left school. From the outset they had expansion plans, and purchased an 8-metre boat, 'Messina,' and a commercial quota. In 1998 they upgraded to a 10-metre boat, 'Moana,' which enabled them to fish further afield and could hold a 3-tonne catch.

Their fleet was expanded again in 2000 with an 18-metre purpose-built commercial vessel, 'Medea,' and again in 2009, with an 18.3-metre dedicated crayfish vessel.

The brothers considered fishing outside the 200-mile zone, but soon realised their commitment was to the Far North and creating opportunities locally. A new and bigger boat was needed, however, and with an increased fish quota, and fish receiver's licence, they could expand their operation and sell locally, with future generations of Northlanders in mind.

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They looked locally for a boat builder, selecting Bluefix Boatworks Ōpua to build 'Manakai' a 22-metre commercial bottom-lining vessel, Bluefix employing 10 extra staff to complete the job in time for the next fishing season. Other local businesses, such as lawyers, marine electronics, engineering services, hydraulics, scaffold and equipment hire also benefited, but the brothers were also motivated by other, more intrinsic values.

Over the last 20 years they have employed and paid for local youth to acquire deckhand certificates and skipper's tickets, creating opportunities for their future and providing a formal education that many lacked.

They have worked with careers advisers and the Far North police Youth at Risk, many young men going on to skipper their own boats both in New Zealand and offshore.

The Daveys will use the $30,000 Top Energy grant to boost the technological fish finding capability of their fleet with a WASSP Multibeam, that can profile the seabed up to 100 times faster than other systems, an advance that they said would support their commercial operation and contribute to employment and economic opportunities locally.

Sixteen applications were received for this year's business development grant, the judges saying they always found it difficult select a winner from the high-quality applications they consider, but Messina Trustees Ltd stood out as offering the greatest economic impact and opportunity.

The brothers, they said, had used their entrepreneurial bent to the economic and social benefit of the community.

Top Energy chief executive Russell Shaw said with the challenges ahead as the community adjusted to the economic impacts of Covid-19, the lines company was focused on supporting business initiatives that would help to alleviate some of those impacts.

The business development fund, launched in 2014, was designed to encourage and promote economic growth in the Far North. Grants of up to $30,000 were awarded twice a year for local business ideas or initiatives that had the potential to grow or diversify the Far North economy, 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.

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