Ōtaki’s John Barrett has been inducted into the Business Kāpiti-Horowhenua (BKH) Hall of Fame.
John was honoured during the 2022 Electra Business & Innovation Awards at the Horowhenua Events Centre in Levin on September 30.
Additionally, the tourism company of which he is managing director – Kāpiti Island Nature Tours – won the 2022 BKH award for best hospitality, entertainment and tourism business.
The citation for John’s Hall of Fame noted that a kauri in the forest reflected stature and prominence, strength and durability, and an ability to survive and grow against the adversity of nature’s challenges.
“What an appropriate way to describe John Barrett,” it said.
John (Ngāti Raukawa, Te Ati Awa and Ngāti Toa Rangatira) has lived in the Dunstan Street house of his parents – and even a grandmother and great-grandmother – all his life.
However, he also has a strong and enduring relationship with Kāpiti Island. His great-grandfather, Wi Parata te Kahakura, left a farm on the island to John’s grandmother, who held a kaitiaki (guardianship) role as farming there was not viable. John first visited the island in 1955 as a young boy.
He left school at 16 and had his first job in Wellington as an office junior with Thomas Cook Travel.
In 1970 he travelled on his OE and returned a year later to marry Susan Moffatt and started building a bach on the island. His wider whānau took an interest in the venture and without a real plan, they began developing the island business.
John, meantime, continued his career in travel, working in Levin.
In the early 1990s he operated a modest commercial fishing operation, while at the same time developing a 20-week youth development programme on the island. Young people would sleep in one room with a kerosene fridge, a coal range, and a long-drop toilet.
Parents of the kids wanted to visit, then friends of the parents, and the seed for a tourism venture was sown.
In 1999 John and sister Amo founded Kāpiti Island Nature Tours and Nature Lodge. John is the managing director of the family-operated, multi-award-winning business.
Three children, cousins, nieces and nephews, wider whānau and skills brought in from the community, make up a team of 40 staff operating the business today.
John has also immersed himself in the promotion of nature-based tourism. He is a strong advocate of indigenous higher education and conservation practices.
The Hall of Fame citation said that John’s commitment to his people, community and country, has led to roles including:
Founding trustee Kāpiti Skills Centre, founding member of Kāpiti Marine Reserve Management Committee, founding member of the Leadership Council of World Indigenous Tourism Alliance.
Past chair of Te Ara a Maui-Wellington Regional Māori Tourism Alliance, and the NZ Māori Tourism Council; recently retired director of Tourism NZ; past director of the Wellington Conservation Board, and the Aviation/Tourism Training organisation; past member of Te Mana Whakahaere (board of directors) Te Wānanga o Raukawa.
Current chair of the Māoriland Charitable Trust – Maoriland Film Festival; chair of Raukawa Whānau Ora Ltd; a director of Te Wānanga o Raukawa Foundation.
“This is not an exhaustive record of John’s involvement, but it surely portrays his energy and dedication to making a difference in his community,” the citation said.
“John has poured his life’s energy into building an iconic tourism attraction, he has weathered considerable objections to his vision, but has stayed the course and today showcases a predator-free nature reserve showcasing bird life and pristine bushland and beach.
“A man of your prominence and as humble as you are shines a light on what can be achieved. Your selfless roles across our community are to be admired, respected, and celebrated.
“This whakatauki is said of a great chief or leader: ‘He kotoku rerenga tahi – A white heron’s flight is seen but once.’
“John Barrett, you are a deserving laureate to the BKH hall of fame.”