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Mehdi Sanssar

David Ramonteau

J’aime Le Bay Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s le Midi: the south of France. There’s bohemian bonhomie here. Entrepreneurship but long, languid lunches over which to discuss it. Opportunity to enjoy the finer things in life, and plenty of time to do so with friends and family. Maybe it’s the weather. Or the landscape. Or a flight of fancy conjured up by my imagination. Fuelling my Francophile fascination, I keep bumping into interesting, eloquent and talented French people living in the Bay and making that living in wine, chocolate, jewellery, furniture making, brocante (that’s French for ‘junk’ – sounds much better, right?!). The French have landed and they’re a bunch of bon vivants with their joie de vivre and their je ne sais quoi.

Bee in the know ~ jan/ feb 2014


We are exotic Anissa Talbi Dobson is la petite chocolatiere behind Le Petite Chocolat. She is our savant de chocolat, not just in quality or flavour combinations, but in the way she conducts her business – from ensuring ethics in every part of the supply chain to the inspired collaborations she ignites. Much of what Anissa does is play. She takes her base product, which is boutique couverture shipped in from France and made from single origin cacao beans, then works her magic: adding flavours and textures. “I’m not obsessed with eating chocolate,” she says. “It’s more the alchemy, the physics and, in a big way, people’s reaction to eating good

story by ~ jessica soutar barron photos by ~ sarah cates

chocolate. It brings so much happiness.” Careful to ensure every person involved in making her finished product – 70 gram bars of pure heaven, in twenty flavours – gets a fair deal, Anissa is hypercritical of the mainstream chocolate industry, which she says is built on exploitation. “Chocolate is a political food,” says Anissa. “I knew from the start if I was going to make chocolate it would be organic and fair trade. You can’t care for the beans if you don’t care for the people who grow them.” Anissa arrived in 2009. It was coup de foudre and after a few trips home to France and a wedding (she married kiwi Joe Dobson in 2011) she set up shop making her chocolate from the kitchen at Te Awanga Estate winery. “There’s lots of opportunities here because it’s still very new. France is an old country, everything’s been done before; but here things are exotic, and we are exotic within this environment.” Collaboration and innovation are constant threads running through Anissa’s work. So far collaborations have included a chocolate made with Clearview Estate dessert wine, another with Salvare dukkah, one with Hawthorne coffee, and a collaboration on packaging with artist Freeman White. “There’s so many amazing people around who I want to work with and so many products I want to play with. If we can do something together then why not?” Elsewhere David Ramonteau orders a short black and a pan au chocolat when I meet him at Ya Bon, the cute French bakery owned

by the cute French baker Moise Cerson (see, I told you they were everywhere). David was born into winemaking: there’s vin in his veins. His family vineyard is in a traditional, orthodox winegrowing area and, as the eldest, David was expected to take over from his father. Instead he left, travelling the world as a wine consultant. In 2000 he met fellow winemaker Kate Galloway and now lives in Havelock North. As well as making wine under the Alluviale label, together their enfant de l’amour is Dada Wines, a winemaker’s equivalent of the concept album; you can drink it but you won’t get it. “With Dada I’ve tried to forget everything I’ve learnt about wine, and go back to basics. That’s what life is about: finding your uniqueness and sharing it.” David says he benefits creatively from being based in Hawke’s Bay. “I get a lot from being here. There’s an amazing artists community, which is something I’d never have access to at home.” “In France I didn’t have enough freedom to be myself; for people like me, growing up in a very strict culture, it’s hard to extricate yourself. I’m more free here, so New Zealand is very special,” explains David, who does admit there’s parental pressure to return home. David describes his family home as being geographically similar to Hawke’s Bay with mountains and the sea. But attitude-wise the two places are far apart and David feels a kind of freedom of spirit living here. “Globally this country is very advanced. The light is very bright and it shines on the people.” “People who come here, from elsewhere, have to forget about ‘Home’.

Anissa Talbi Dobson

J’aime Le Bay

Marion Courtille Parlez-vous Hawke’s Bay? For Anissa Hawke’s Bay is genereux (generous) From Marion: Luxuriante! (lush) Mehdi says it’s chaleureux (warm and comfortable) Francois calls it bon vivre (the good life) David thinks of Hawke’s Bay as ailleurs (somewhere else) “It’s used to describe exotic places people escape to. Hawke’s Bay is my ailleurs. It’s where I escaped and it’s a nice feeling. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

That gets rid of a lot of luggage. But personally I don’t think I know where home is for me anymore.”

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A nice drive along a sunny beach Marion Courtille emails me from France where she’s on holiday over the summer. She trained as a cabinet maker in a very old, traditional art school in Paris, where she lived for ten years before moving to New Zealand to work for David Trubridge. “I always wanted to do something that would reflect both my practical and creative sides. David is one of few designers who operates his own production workshop and encourages his staff to engage in research, development and manufacturing as intrinsic parts of the design process.” Marion also makes her own line of jewellery with leather as the main material. “I translate traditional methods of woodworking to leather. My objects are turned, carved, laminated and joined like wood to create tactile and innovative forms,” she explains. I ask her about a particularly ‘French’ aesthetic that is permeating Hawke’s Bay. “I think we are all inspired by where we are from, what we grew up with, what we have been surrounded by; the richness of Europe’s cultures and traditions ... consciously or not.” Making a home for herself here, Marion enjoys a strong sense of community she feels she didn’t have in France. “Coming from an often stressful Parisian way of life, I really appreciate the softness of living in Hawke’s Bay. I swapped the métro for a nice drive along the sunny beach to go to work every morning.”

Like a bike I meet Mehdi Sanssar and Francois Guittenit in Mehdi’s tres chic design store, So Vintage. Mehdi travels to France multiple times a year to bring back antique, often industrial, furniture and objects. Francois is a cabinet maker who operates Le Workshop and works with Mehdi to make rustic European furniture. Both Mehdi and Francois agree being in Hawke’s Bay gives them opportunities to enjoy much of what New Zealand as a whole has to offer. “It’s a bit rural but there’s lots of activity. The climate is good, and there’s great food and wine,” says Francois. Both Mehdi and Francois, have started their own businesses out of need rather than a particular entrepreneurial bent. “There’s not a lot of work here, so what do you do? What are your options? Do you work in a job you don’t like or do you do your own thing?” says Mehdi. For Francois working for himself means having time to enjoy Hawke’s Bay and be with his children. “In France they work hard for their money and they work long hours. Here, the surfing’s good, and the fishing, and it needs to be a balance between that and working,” he says. Operating their own businesses is more possible here than in France, where entrepreneurship must contend with bureaucracy. Francois explains: “France is very competitive and bureaucracy holds up everything; paperwork, documentation. It feels like a big machine and you don’t have enough energy to push it. But here it’s like a bike: You just jump on and go.”




state of the arts

Christine Heaney, Creative Napier manager

Hawke's Bay has three arts trusts working on our behalf. Creative Napier and Creative Hastings look after community programmes, and are in many ways the artsy arms of the local councils. Creative Hawke's Bay works across the region, ‘dedicated to supporting and developing the professional creative sector’. story by ~ jessica soutar barron // photos by ~ sarah cates

Bee in the know ~ jan/ feb 2014


A tale of two cities Christine Heaney manages Creative Napier. There the big project on the cards for 2014 is development of a community arts centre. On 12th December Heaney received the letter. It announced Creative Napier had secured $300,000 from the lotteries commission for the project. The plan is to refurbish the old borough council chamber building removed from Herschell St when the Hawke's Bay Museum became MTG. With keystone funding in place, the task now will be securing the remaining investment required to get the building up and running. "There are so many things that could be happening, but they are all hooked around the need for a building. It needs to be flexible; everything to everyone. The large majority of the arts community in Napier is looking forward to using it," says Heaney. Pitsch Leiser is Heaney's opposite number at Creative Hastings and, although relatively new to the role and the region, he is making great strides in ensuring Creative Hastings is delivering on its mandate. "The role of Creative Hastings is to highlight artists in the region to locals and visitors in a participatory way," Leiser says. "It's important to build an understanding in the wider community of what we have. Unless people know about the treasures buried here, we can't celebrate them."

Although it has a busy well-used community arts centre, public space is a strong theme for Creative Hastings in 2014. Ironic, considering Creative Napier is wanting to move away from public space into a home of its own. After decades working in arts development, including roles in Auckland and Wellington, Leiser is well versed in making full use of what's around him. "From a creative perspective, I am constantly asking, ‘What is there that's exciting? Where is the talent? And, how can we in the arts help build community?’ Art, dance, music – it all has the ability to bring communities together. And it's part of our role to uncover and showcase the multitudes of talent that's in the wider district." Missing regional voice? The third arts trust is Creative Hawke's Bay. A result of Creative New Zealand funding priorities in 2000 and a victim of Creative New Zealand funding cuts ten years later, Creative Hawke's Bay currently appears to be in hibernation. It does run Hawke's Bay's Pecha Kucha Night, but rather than focusing on projects, the group is in a phase of 'wait and see'. "We're marking time, waiting for things to align," says Roger King who chairs the Creative Hawke's Bay board, which includes Dr Suzette Major from EIT and Te Rangi Huata from Ngäti Kahungunu Iwi Inc.

Alignment could come through amalgamation; an inevitable consideration in any conversation about what 2014 will bring. Art and artists often set the way for the rest of us to follow. With three different arts bodies serving Hawke's Bay – three separate boards, two community arts advisors, one existing building (Hastings), one building in waiting (Napier), dozens of projects, events and initiatives, and certainly three distinct agendas and strategies – will 2014 see the amalgamation of our arts trusts?

Roger King, Creative Hawke's Bay board chair

Pitsch Leiser, Creative Hastings manager

Art goes on While the year ahead may bring political change and ultimately realignment of priorities, programmes and associated funding pools, both Creative Napier and Creative Hastings are busy getting on with business as usual. Alongside the gigantic task of establishing a new facility during 2014, Creative Napier will hold its annual summer series of concerts in the Napier Soundshell and its Children's Art Expo, which sees 300 children take part in a broad programme of workshops over five days. "It's our job to deliver a good chunk of Napier City Council's arts policy, promote and foster community arts at a grassroots level," explains Heaney. "And create opportunities for the public to engage with the arts." Creative Napier's remit from council calls for ten events a year, but in 2013 they held 20. "Public speakers, concerts, flash mobs, a workshop to decorate penguin boxes – someone painted one that said 'Breed well'. That was hilarious." Heaney feels that because of the lack of a permanent space, Creative Napier has to be particularly innovative about where it holds events. "We use the streets and outside locations. In 2014 we will have a street Continued on Page 60


Bee in the know ~ jan/ feb 2014

Roger King would like the three bodies to merge. "One creative agency for the region makes sense. Arts should be the trail blazer for demonstrating how amalgamation could be successful. Collaboration is good, but it's not the same as being one organisation," says King. "Resources are hard enough to find without splitting them up all over the place. Arts organisations have always been run on slim funding, but there would be opportunities to make savings having one where there have been two or three."

The three 'Creatives' have already worked together on one project. Despite some early teething problems, the annual Regional Art Guide is now being produced by Creative Hastings and Creative Napier, with some midwifery services provided by Creative Hawke's Bay. The most recent guide also has a newly introduced online version, something Pitsch Leiser spearheaded ( Christine Heaney won't be pressed into giving an answer on potential amalgamation of the two cities' councils or their relevant arts trusts, but 2014 will see a rebranding of Creative Napier, with some reference to the relationship with Creative Hastings. "If the arts can't get it together in terms of talking to each other, then heaven help us. We should be leading the way in those kinds of discussions." Leiser believes any new infrastructure in the arts would support the employment of a few key people and would require some savvy strategic thinking around how the arts can develop a portfolio through the year that is sustainable. "Whatever it is, it cannot become a monolith that sucks up all the resources and kills off the little shoots that could grow into a very beautiful tree. We need to foster those sprouts and see which ones survive."


state of the arts

piano," she says. This initiative will be along the lines of the Play Me I'm Yours project found in cities around the world, where pianos are painted up by artists and left in public places for people to play. Business as usual for Creative Hastings consists of a summer series of outside concerts, regular exhibitions in the Hastings Community Arts Centre, a big role in the Hastings Blossom Parade and Live after Five. In the past this has been held in the Opera House Plaza, but in an attempt to cut costs will be moved to the Community Arts Centre. For 2014 Pitsch Leiser is also playing with some new ideas, including Backyard Summer Fest, an inaugural event held in January at the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds, and a sculpture and carving symposium. Another project involves arguably the 'ugliest wall in Hastings'. "We are supporting a project to put our community's stories on the KMart wall that runs along St Aubyn Street," he explains. "When people walk down that road and see their stories and it's relevant to them they're proud. That's a great way to engage people in the arts." Civic pride Both Leiser and Roger King are

watching the developments in Hastings' Civic Square with interest, beginning with the erection of 18 pou, hoping they herald the beginning of a new wave of civic pride in the arts. "I'm really looking forward to seeing how the new civic square development will unfold and how that space will be used," says King. Leiser agrees: "When visitors come they want to see what is unique to our city and that will always be our indigenous stories." "Ngäti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated is a key player in this conversation. Mäori in this region have an enormous wealth of stories and resources that are just waiting to flourish. They don't need us, but it's good if we can weave together and tell the story of the value of the arts to the wider community." From his overview position, Roger King can see some big holes in Hawke's Bay's art scene, including funding gaps, a lack of strategic direction and a need for an injection of art from outside the Bay. "What is key is the need for strong leadership and a strong vision: in venues and at a political level." Of work from outside, King says: "Hawke's Bay does very well internally. There are a lot of artists showing their

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Bee in the know ~ jan/ feb 2014


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“We have fantastic talent and we have opportunities to grow that and attract more creative people here. That can be done if we are willing to work collectively and lift our game. Really we all want the same thing: to grow a vibrant community in which to raise our kids, and be a place funky enough to show off to our friends.” pitsch leiser work, a lot of theatre and certainly a lot of classical music. But there is not a lot from outside the area coming in. There is no place in Hawke's Bay showing the cutting edge of contemporary art in this country." He explains the importance of such opportunities to local audiences and artists: "Being exposed to a huge range of work from around New Zealand helps to contextualise what our own artists are doing."

home is where the art is by ~ jessica soutar barron

Newcomers with big ideas, bold attitudes and some pretty brazen opinions about our arts scene are making Hawke's Bay home. And in so doing they're waking us up to the potential to make more of what we have, and to explore new ways of doing.

Christine Spring, chief executive at Hawke's Bay Opera House

New fans for opera Anna Pierard left home having finished her schooling at Sacred Heart in Napier and went to Victoria University, then overseas with the National Youth Choir. She auditioned then trained as an opera singer at Guildhall in London, and then went where the work was, as a mezzo soprano: "Taking my suitcase and buying my own salt and pepper wherever I went." At Guildhall she'd met husband, flutist, then tenor and now conductor José Aparicio. They based themselves in Spain. From there they travelled, performing in operas all over Europe, and occasionally came back to visit Pierard's family in the Bay. When their first child was born, Pierard and Aparicio moved back here for good, putting down some form of root system although the pull of working abroad was still strong. "It was really when I became a mother that I realised opera was not something I could take or leave. And that singing was not something I could give up easily, if at all." For Pierard, and for Aparicio, music had become a reason for being, and a way of life. Now living in Napier they needed to find ways to ensure their life-blood was still present and vital. "Opera is a misunderstood art form in terms of its reason for being and its relevance; really it has always been aimed at the populus and should continue to be. Personally I don't want to be part of the generation that allows opera to be obsolete. My own understanding of the art form is developing and growing and it's my job to bring people along," Pierard explains. Now, Pierard is extending her passion for opera in two distinct directions. Determined to create a viable professional opera company in Hawke's Bay with the potential to tour, she has established Festival Opera, which will mount its first production – The Marriage of Figaro – as part of Art Deco Weekend 2014. Pierard is focused on creating new fans of opera, enlivening what can be seen as a staid art form, and introducing a fresh relevance that chimes Continued on Page 62


Bee in the know ~ jan/ feb 2014

Anna Pierard of Festival Opera, Andrea Brigden of Hawke's Bay Youth Theatre and Christine Spring, the new chief executive at the Hawke's Bay Opera House have all made the conscious choice to settle here, when each could enjoy their pick of places to live and apply their talents. Two have returned after long absences; one has made a new home for herself here. They are just three of a whole bunch of go-getters growing the arts in Hawke's Bay with the kind of vim that comes with being new round here.


home is where the art is

Andrea Brigden, Hawke's Bay Youth Theatre

Bee in the know ~ jan/ feb 2014


with contemporary audiences. Hand in hand with this endeavour is Festival Opera's youth initiative. It has taken 15 young people from across Hawke's Bay and over the summer will introduce them to the form, then work with them to devise a 15 minute reworking of Figaro. "The opera comes first and from there we know we need to stimulate younger audiences. There was a realisation that this region has the venues and the people and the support to have a really quality product, in terms of an opera company, and every opera company needs a youth initiative." From the beginning of the youth project, called Prima Volta, Pierard began to tap into the very real issues facing young people in Hawke's Bay. A world away from the glitz of Europe's opera houses, the startling stats around youth and suicide, violence, lack of work and training opportunities stimulated a response in Pierard. "Opera is what I know and so it is my avenue for doing what I can to help our youth. But we should all be teachers, we should all be socially responsible and we should all parent beyond our own children." Now she is hoping Hawke's Bay will come on board. "What I want Hawke's Bay people to do is to support Hawke's Bay people who are attempting to help Hawke's Bay people. To make it a circle and complete it, and when that is done to grow that circle and include more people. It's a type of philanthropy of spirit: to know that your own children are fine and to begin looking at what others need." When asked if Hawke's Bay is now home, there's a long pause before she answers. "If this project opens hearts and minds

Anna Pierard, Festival Opera then yes. We've experienced so much here and grown our partnership and our family here. We're not going to give up easily. Particularly with Project Prima Volta ‌ I personally can't just step away from that, I can't give hope then not follow through." Connectivity Another arty-type who is blazing a path for Hawke's Bay's youth is Andrea Brigden. As a young person Brigden left Hawke's Bay for the UK and now that she's back, and director of Hawke's Bay Youth Theatre (HaBYT), it's primarily the young people she's here for. "I left when I was 15, but I always knew I was going to come back here. Hawke's Bay was always home. So I found myself a husband and brought him with me and he loves it here." Brigden now lives in Central Hawke's Bay and is an essential figure at the newly refurbished Waipawa Municipal Theatre. "I think there's quite a lot happening in the arts in Hawke's Bay and I guess that's because I seek it out. I look for it and when you're into the arts it makes itself visible." In her role at HaBYT Brigden is charged with igniting a passion for performance in Hawke's Bay's youth. "What I'm aiming to do is not just teach them, but also open up opportunities for them, things they won't have access to otherwise," she says. HaBYT takes young people from 15 to 18 years and gives them skills in acting and theatre arts. Brigden would like the company to grow and to extend its reach to include people in their early twenties, as well as being a pre-entry platform for tertiary education providers in the area of performing arts.

"I don't want it to be just a bit of fun while they're at school. Many have an aspiration to work in performing arts and being in a company opens them up to the potential of working in the theatre," she explains. Brigden finds giving young people an experience of professional theatre in the Bay can be a struggle, although she is generally optimistic about the arts scene. "There is a lot of theatre here but to be honest it's not the kind of stuff they really need to be exposed to. I would like them to see more contemporary New Zealand theatre, stylistically interesting, touring pieces, where there are perhaps opportunities to have workshops with performers and find out about process." As with Anna Pierard's project, creating in young people a thirst for performing arts early on in their lives could be the key to keeping those disciplines alive. Developing audiences now means they'll demand those art forms from the world later on. "It's important because if we didn't have creativity then we'd die on the inside. Personally, if I'm not being creatively stimulated then I feel stifled. I think that's the same for everyone." For Brigden, an extension of that personal creative need is the need to connect with others working in the arts. Although she admits that from an acting point of view it would sometimes be nice to be in Auckland or in Wellington, she is proud of the community of theatre makers operating in the Bay, but believes more opportunities would be created if those relationships were solidified. "There is a lot of potential for collaboration here but we need something more that helps facilitate that," Brigden explains.

home is where the art is

"There's this buzz that happens when you meet someone who also works in the arts – there's so much going on, but now it's got to be about connectivity." The business of arts At the far end of the performing arts spectrum stands the Hawke's Bay Opera House – established, prominent and terribly grown up. Newly appointed chief executive Christine Spring is at the helm. Never having lived in Hawke's Bay, and having not been part of a small town community for 30 years, meant it took some time for Spring to acclimate. "I wanted a base that would allow me to come and go. For me Hawke's Bay has all the benefits: good food, good wine, sunshine and family." Tempted early on in her stay by a job opportunity in Melbourne, Spring made the choice to let that go and instead commit to the Bay and to New Zealand. "I like the outdoor lifestyle. I like the proximity to family. But I do think it's a hard community to integrate into. That part has been an interesting experience and not an easy process." Spring's pre-Opera House career includes multiple degrees, a long stint as an airport engineer and numerous high profile positions in international

organisations. The Opera House job has brought with it a dose of reality. "An aspect I've learned here is that $500 is important. I've worked for so many years on multi-billion dollar projects that this job brings me back down to earth. It's easy to forget what normal is, so I've enjoyed the reality check; it's been good for me," Spring explains. Although the change in career path, from airports to opera houses, may look radical, there are strong parallels. "Both are large public-use facilities. In both, what's important is customer service, keeping the toilets clean, commercial nous and good negotiation skills. The core skills are very similar." 19 the role of the Opera Spring outlines House has having four foundation principles: to be a hub of culture in Hawke's Bay, to fully embrace community engagement, to be a venue of corporate excellence and to 19 be financially sustainable. On that point: "We have a mandate from Hastings District Council to lessen our need on Council funding and grants," says19Spring. "If we want the Opera House to make it as a stand-alone commercial entity we need to use business skills, not artistic ones, so I hired a good manager* to look after the artistic direction and that meant I could 19

work relationships and grow the business." Spring is using her newcomer's view to assess the opportunities and the challenges in the Hawke's Bay arts community. "The strengths in Hawke's Bay are in the passion and commitment of the people. But there are holes. There are aspects that aren't as cohesive as they could be. Hawke's Bay is blessed with a large volume of venues and what's important is how we support each other and how we draw on each other's strengths." Although her background is not in the arts, she is an avid consumer of culture. "If I was in Melbourne I'd be in jazz clubs on a Sunday night. In Paris I'd seek out obscure and fabulous small art galleries. Abu Dhabi is rich in the variety of events it brings in. But I go and get my big city injection so I'm not hungry for it when I'm here, and a city is what you make it. The Hastings City Art Gallery is fantastic, the MTG is brilliant, I love Hastings' Night Market. If you always hunger for what you had then you miss out on what you have. You need to enjoy what's here. And personally, I like being part of the evolution of the arts in the Bay; it's really very satisfying," she says. *Hawke's Bay boy returned, Glen Pickering has a strong arts background and was hired


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Bay Buzz Jan/Feb 2014  

Article by Jess Soutar Barron on French people living in Hawke's Bay