A property developer who built some of Auckland's biggest "leaky home" developments, Tim Manning, has agreed to sponsor a local version of Bob Geldof's Make Poverty History campaign to relieve poverty in Fiji.
Annie Hensby, an Auckland mother who organises comedians, clowns and other performers in schools, collected four tonnes of medical supplies, books and other goods for Fiji through benefit performances last year.
She appealed to the public just before Christmas to cover a $1700 shortfall in the cost of getting the goods to Fiji. A company majority-owned by Mr Manning, Pacific Islands Partnership, then paid for Ms Hensby and her Fiji-born partner, Kavai Velavela, to fly to Fiji to distribute the goods.
They delivered the supplies this month to two schools and to children in seven villages in the Tailevu district of the main island, Viti Levu, and the Wainunu district on Vanua Levu.
They now plan to register "Performers 4 Poverty" as a charitable trust and to work fulltime on organising more benefit performances for Fiji.
"Pacific Islands Partnership is our main sponsor. When they heard about what we are doing they said, 'We want to get behind you'," Ms Hensby said.
A minority shareholder, former All Black Eric Rush, said the company was formed a year ago to develop a resort on Viti Levu.
Mr Manning's former company, Taradale Holdings, was involved in several projects that have had weathertightness issues, including Sacramento at Botany Downs, Ponsonby Gardens, West End in Grey Lynn and The Grange at Albany.
Last September, he sold the partly completed Whisper Cove housing project at Snells Beach to a Sydney developer for $215 million. Mr Rush said Fiji was now pretty close to the hearts of Mr Manning and his associates and he was not surprised that they were backing Performers 4 Poverty. "They are in a position to do something about it and that's what they are doing."
Ms Hensby was horrified by the poverty she saw when she visited Fiji for the wedding of Mr Velavela's brother last year. She saw children with no shoes, covered with open sores, living in "tin shacks" without power, books or toys.
Schools were "worse than in Victorian times" - long wooden benches with virtually no resources. The school she visited in Wainunu went only to Year 10 because there was no money to go further.
People lacked basic knowledge about health matters such as diet. "We met so many people with very early-onset heart disease. A lot of the women have their legs amputated from diabetes. Everyone is just eating lots of taro," she said.
She and Mr Velavela provided books for the schools and handed out two books, two toys, clothes and shoes to every child in the two districts.
"Kids were walking away with as much as they could carry," she said. "The parents were in tears of happiness. The kids were squealing with delight." Ms Hensby plans to ask local theatres, musical groups and other performers, as well as her school entertainers, to donate the proceeds from one show a year to the charity.
Three shipping companies - Neptune, Reef and Oceanbridge - have offered to ship supplies to Fiji free.
The charity hopes to provide villages in the two Fiji districts with more books and medical supplies, gas cookers, shoes and gumboots, teach the Fijians how to create soak holes to drain mosquito breeding sites, and fund an ambulance and a small power station.