The New Brighton Business Association has hired New Brighton resident Paul Zaanen to take a leading role in the renewal of the beach suburb. Shelley Robinson talks to Paul about his vision for the area, his dislike of Facebook and Britney Spears music and his roof-top proposal to his fiancee, Nat.
What is your role in New Brighton?
I'm basically the manager for the New Brighton Business Association, which means I am on the ground making sure things happen and acting like a little terrier to make sure things are done.
How did you get the role?
I guess it was a long sort of process with a lot of volunteer hours. I was doing an analysis of New Brighton and kept seeing that these big master plans for the area that just haven't had the follow through and kept asking the question why? You really need someone to be on the ground to make sure things happen and that is my role.
New Brighton has all of these great community projects and people who work so hard and working well and above what they should do. And that is some of the role of the business association to try and back them up and help out where we can with extra hours.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Woodend actually, then I moved to Queenstown, spent my university years in Christchurch then I just really moved around all over and travelled heaps. I studied New Zealand biodiversity and biology at university.
So you are a bit of bright spark?
Aw, nah I wouldn't say that!
Where did you travel?
I spent a lot of time in Europe, and in the French Alps, actually hitch hiking most of my way around. I really like meeting people and just made sure I learn as much as I could. There are so many good moments from when I travelled I wouldn't be able to fit them all in the paper! But when travelling you just realise what an asset New Brighton is - I mean you can have the whole beach to yourself at New Brighton, that would just never happen in Spain and other places.
What did you do before this new role?
I managed the Driftwood Cafe and then did some event management in New Brighton, including B Town Rock Steady and a year or two back did the alleyway party where around 400 crammed into the alley in New Brighton and partied, it was a nice little shindig with great local bands. It's actually how I got started in event management.
Then I worked at Switch Espresso and chipping away at this, getting businesses to look at the big picture and gaining support for it. Actually people like Glenn Livingstone and Peter Beck have just been so instrumental in getting this done.
What was your path to settling in New Brighton?
I moved here two years ago basically because a lot of my friends had moved back to Christchurch - it was an impromptu off the cuff sort of thing. I rented a place in Marine Parade it was just so great that I could pay the same amount of rent living next to the beach that someone living under the power lines in Hornby was paying.
What has been the greatest challenge which life has thrown you?
I think that has to be family related. My parents were ill for a while and when you fly away from home you miss out on all those important family connections. My parents are back up and cranking now - they live in Fairlie.
What was the last thing that really made you laugh?
I laugh everyday of the week without fail.
How old are you?
I am 30 - just a spring chicken! And that's what I see across New Brighton, these are all these great younger business owners, who are in that 30-40 age group who are just all about following their own path instead of following other people. It's great.
What were you like at school?
Apparently I didn't live up to my potential according to my teachers! In hindsight I'm like thanks guys! I really enjoyed school and I loved the social connections and I'm still friends with a few from school, Rangiora High. I'm still mates with Martin Kersey, I've known him since I was 12 and I travelled with him around Europe.
What is something people may not know about you?
Not much actually! I try to be really open and honest with everyone, it's the same thing with this position and the business association, it is all about being open and trustworthy.
So you don't secretly love Britney Spears?
Oh heck no! I'd like to think my taste in music is better than that. Nah, I'm pretty heavily into New Zealand music and reggae inspired stuff, like Fat Freddy's drop and Salmonella Dub - I've followed that type of music for awhile. Really into New Zealand reggae and dub acts which is similar to the culture in New Brighton actually.
Social media - love it or hate it?
Hate it. I'm not even on Facebook. I still use a $30 cell phone. I'm not much of a lover of technology or technology is not the biggest lover of me. Whenever I get some technology it either breaks or doesn't work. It's really not my cup of tea all this Facebook stuff. I prefer talking face to face someone and having a natter rather than putting up a status of when I am brushing my teeth! I really prefer to meet up with people, like in this job and talk face to face instead of relying on text or phones - I'm saying this while talking on the phone to you!! Oops!
Tell us about your family and whanau.
Well, my partner, Nat and I just got engaged over the break, actually on Christmas Day. See this is what I mean that New Brighton has been working out incredibly well for me! She is a Brighton girl through and through and she keeps me in check with a local person's perspective, she really knows what the local community is. I met her when I was running the Driftwood Cafe, we had a shindig on in the evening and there she was.
And the big day?
Is going to be in March next year.
How did you propose?
We were drinking champagne on the roof of our house overlooking the city and I asked her. We have a flat roof and we tend to go up there and watch the sunset.She asked me if I was joking! Then she said yes. We're not really ring people, we are going to get henna style tattoos, it's the hippie in us coming out. I did carve her a wooden ring though.
Awww, you just won the hearts of the girls reading this!
Ah, well, there is only one heart that really matters to me.
Where would you like to see New Brighton in two months' time?
I'd like to see instead of people saying you should have seen New Brighton 30 years ago it was such and such - I want them to say man, you should see New Brighton now. I want to see people, instead of wallowing around in the past, to be optimistic for the future.