Morobe Rainforest

Morobe Rainforest

On Friday I went to a function at the Nelson Yacht Club and listened to some speeches. Sound boring? It was anything but! The occasion was the official launch of a boat, the “Morobe Rainforest”, designed and built here in Nelson by Challenge New Zealand Ltd.

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I learned of this project a few months ago when the Challenge owners, Nevil and Amber Basalaj, spoke to our Rotary club. They explained that this was to be a low-cost, multipurpose vessel to service a remote stretch of coastline in the Morobe district of Papua New Guinea. Their talk prompted us to raise money to buy educational and sporting gear as a gift to the children in the villages. The highlight of that visit was a short speech by “Moro” (I think I have his name right), the skipper of the new boat.

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Moro described his district: a remote, isolated area with no roads and few wharves or jetties, with no regular shipping. When the villagers travel, they take along all of their worldly possessions. He explained that to the villagers the rainforest is their life: it provides shelter, sustenance, almost all of their needs. That’s why “Rainforest” was chosen as the name of the new boat. He believes it will transform their lives for the better.  His talk was so inspiring I was prompted to offer my services ‘pro bono ‘ to photograph the official ceremony. So here they are.

The afternoon began with a visit from the Hon Nick Smith MP, seen here with Nevil and Amber and the official inspector, a captain from the PNG Maritime Safety Authority.

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It was a cold winter’s day – I can’t imagine how it must have felt for someone from the tropics.  But they all managed smiles for another official photo:

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The designer is Richard McBride, a Canon man.  We won’t hold that against him, because he appears to have done a superb job in meeting customer needs.

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Then it was off the the Yacht Club, where quite a large crowd listened to some speeches, every bit as inspiring as the one I heard a week earlier.  First by Nevil and then Amber

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Then the new skipper:

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Then they all disappeared.  Shortly afterwards, the Morobe Rainforest cruised past, sporting her new mural: a bird of paradise and a NZ fern,

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before nosing in to the yacht club for the final bottle breaking ceremony. I’m glad I’m not a newspaper photographer because I was busy changing lenses as the bottle was smashed and missed the critical moment completely.

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I’ve heard many presentations by marketing experts stressing the importance of “getting close to your customer”. In my experience many companies just pay lip service to that idea. But here’s an example of a company that took it seriously.  By spending time with the villagers, which I’m sure took them well outside their comfort zone on occasions, and listening carefully to their needs, Nevil and Amber Basalaj, the designer Richard McBride, as well as the highly skilled workers here in Nelson have come up with an outstanding vessel.  I wish them many repeat orders!

Other links:

Challenge  New Zealand website

NZ Boat Sales

more detail on the vessel and project

Morobe province on Wikipedia






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