• Aidan Bennett with grandson Otto.

Commitment to community keeps Club on track

If you’ve lived or worked on the Shore for any length of time, you’ll likely recognise Aidan Bennett.

The former North Harbour Club President is heavily involved in the community, way beyond the work he has done with the Club for over 26 years. He is an elected member and former Chair of Devonport–Takapuna Local Board, Managing Director of Benefitz print and design company, champion of local community projects and publisher of Channel magazine. He was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for Services to the Community in 2018.

Aidan is a proud husband, father and grandfather who loves to get out on his e-bike when he’s taking time out from the demands of work. It was his love of biking and wish to see positive improvements to lives and the local area that prompted him to take on another community-driven project recently, volunteering for the Matakana Coast Trail Trust.

“Michelle and I love e-biking the trails around New Zealand and overseas. We're hooked on it. We bought a place at Point Wells in Matakana a few years back and love the area. So, when I heard about this vision to build 117kms of trail from Puhoi to Mangawhai (taking in Warkworth, Matakana, Snells Beach, Leigh, Pakiri and Te Arai) I put my hand up to help.

“I am now co-chairing the trust with Craig Donaldson, with the task of getting the money to build the trail. It will be fantastic and offer considerable benefits for the area and the wider region. It's exciting.”

The Takapuna resident is one of the North Harbour Club’s longest serving members. He recalls being drawn to the Club by its founder, the late Ross Finlayson.

“I actually went to the first AIMES Awards dinner in the first year of the club as a guest of Andrew MacKenzie from Albany Toyota, a founding member. I joined not long after, so have been a member since 1996/97.

“Ross Finlayson very quickly became a mentor and a person I looked up to. I enjoyed a great relationship with him until he passed away in 2009. At that time, Gary Monk and I made a pact to honour Ross's legacy by ensuring the club continued and grew after we lost him.”

And he has. Aidan was invited to become a trustee in 2003 and had the ‘real honour’ of serving as president for three years, 2015-18. “I am proud to have played a part in the club growing and prospering since a Ross's passing,” he says. “I’m proud of the boost we have given the young people of our region through the AIMES Awards. And it's longevity. It's now firmly part of the community.

“The fact that we have been going so long - 27 years - that many of our AIMES recipients are now involved and giving back to the club, Ross would love that. And that the current leaders are putting more runs on the board and changing things up. It's good!”

Aidan enjoyed writing and publishing a book about the Club for its 20-year celebration. “Writing this with Professor Ian Watson, back in 2015, was also fun – I need to update the last seven years now!”

The devoted grandad to Otto, and dad to Courtney and Ashleigh, has run his North Shore-based family business Benefitz since 1988. He says, like for many companies, the past two years have been rough. “We do a lot in the events space, and this has been very patchy for over two years, but Benefitz is a solid business and things are starting to feel good again.

“We love the contribution we make to the North Harbour Club in terms of providing all the communications stuff, but we get this back in spades. Our involvement in the North Harbour Club has been very good for our business.”

He wouldn’t swap his North Shore lifestyle, he says. “Good people, moderate and pleasant climate and it feels like a real community. I have worked on the Shore for 33 years but only moved over from the city to live in Takapuna 12 years ago and we immediately felt like we were living in a tight community. We've got a pretty good lifestyle, aye, with all the beaches and cafes as well!”

And, currently, he most enjoys? "Being a grandfather to my grandson – I love it," he beams. "Courtney's little Otto is coming up two and Ashleigh is due with another grandson for us in August. After two daughters, having grandsons is very special!"