We are very much a family and a community business, running diversified farming on the remote Arapawa Island in New Zealand. To us it feels more like a brilliant lifestyle, and not too much like the hard work that it really is. Those we employ quickly feel like family too, as they become valued team members contributing to sustaining this wonderful way of life and protecting the stock levels of the wild paua beds for the future of the Kiwi abalone. Our team proudly has more than 75 years of combined experience farming the Abalone-Paua, a deep love for adventure, and an infinite sense of gratitude for having the privilege of living, working in this magnificent place in earth.
We cannot wait to meet you here, at our Arapawa Blue Pearls & Homestead.
MANAGING DIRECTOR AT ARAPAWA BLUE PEARLS
“Every day is a great day”.
My connection to the sea goes back to 1964 when at 13 years old I started diving for abalone with my father, in Morro Bay, California, where my family are boat builders. At 15 I got my first boat and started commercial abalone diving with my family, tirelessly working and learning what I could. I was soon dreaming of having my own abalone farm. In 1987, after hearing from a fellow fisherman about New Zealand, I thought I’d had better come down and take a look.
I met fellow commercial abalone diver Roger Beattie, and in 1988 spent a few weeks with him, diving for paua in the remote Chatham Islands. We spent a lot of time talking about paua farming, a topic that very few people in the world have mastered, as the Haliotis iris is not just a stunning creature but also a very fragile one for cultivation. I decided that New Zealand was the place for me. In 1989 I purchased a small house on the beach in Kaikoura and came back to New Zealand in the summertime of January and February to recharge, and do some recreational diving after the long California dive season. 1989 was also a significant time, when I met my future wife while sea urchin diving in Northern California.
My love of New Zealand, and Antonia being from here, brought us together. In 1992 Antonia came to work on my dive boat as a second diver. She is one of the most energetic people I have met in my life, and we made a good team. Together we became one of the top dive teams in the State in California. In January 1993 we made our first trip to NZ together as a couple. While travelling we saw a farm for sale on the foreshore of Picton. We had been talking about paua farming so we purchased the Perano farm at Whekenui as a first step towards this.
For the next five years we worked tirelessly in the dive business to make the funds to develop our New Zealand farm. In 2001 we started our first real venture into paua farming with just four tanks, one of which was used for paua pearl experiments. We now have 400 paua farm tanks with paua that have pearls growing in them. We grow the pearls from farm raised Paua along with wild paua that we have harvested from the rocky shores of the Cook Strait.
I am very proud to say we are now producing the highest quality and most beautiful abalone pearls in the world. I am also a collaborator of the New Zealand community based Paua recovery education project a leading force of the regeneration of Paua. For several years I was an executive of the PAU3 Industry Association Incorporated, the group of fishers that operate in the Kaikōura and Canterbury coasts, known as the PAU3 quota management area in New Zealand. Now my son Jacob has taken this role.
MANAGING DIRECTOR AT ARAPAWA BLUE PEARLS
“You never know what is around the corner, make each moment count”
I grew up in the North Island of New Zealand and, like many Kiwis, left New Zealand in 1982 at the age of 17. I headed first to Alaska. I started work in a processing plant, and ended up fishing for salmon in the Prince William Sounds. I loved it there and it still feels like my second home. After further travel to Central America to learn Spanish, and a year in Europe, I moved to Northern California. It was there I began diving for sea urchins (kina). Being one of very few female divers, I worked hard to make the most of the sea and its amazing resources.
I met Mike, who was looking for another diver to work on his boat working off the coast of California. How fortuitous that meeting turned out to be! We worked together for some time, before returning to New Zealand as a couple. On the very first day of the summer of 1993 Mike and I arrived at Whekenui Bay, top of the South Island and when we saw this farm for sale it just felt right! That’s when we knew it was time to settle by the sea and follow Mike’s dream to have an abalone farm.
We worked hard diving to develop the farm in New Zealand. In 1998 twins Sarah and Jacob arrived, and in 2002 we were lucky enough to have another son, James. Living on this gorgeous and remote island, our children were home-schooled through the Correspondence School, the largest school in New Zealand. I supervised them as they worked with their Wellington-based teacher. We also farm beef and Wiltshire sheep, so it is a busy life. I still maintain my contacts with my second home, Alaska. Our family heads north during our winter months for a “working holiday” of picking salmon and cooking for the team up there. It is this commercial fishing operation, in Bristol Bay, Alaska, which helped to fund the abalone farming operation in its early years.
In my spare time, when not working at Arapawa Blue Pearls, I enjoy cooking, getting inspiration for the new jewellery designs for Arapawa Blue Pearls and taking care of the native plantings and vegetable gardens. I am also devoted to our Arapawa Homestead, our accommodation brand, as we adore meeting new friends and families while they are staying in for their holidays. And of course, I go diving for paua. I can’t let my scales dry out!
FARM COORDINATOR AND LEADER OF LAND STOCK
“I’ve realised that the more I learn, the less I know.”
I am a fisher, a diver, and a farmer. The most rewarding part of my job is appreciating all that I have accomplished and learned from growing up in my unique home. I feel lucky to work with incredible people like my family, and I thank them for my love of farming, the sea, and the outdoor adventures.
Mum taught me almost everything I know, and I am proud to be the woman I am with such a fantastic role model to follow. She is the hardest working lady I know, and she is the best cook!
Living here is idyllic. I manage the beef and sheep farm, and one of my favourite spots is at the top of our Arapawa Island farm, where the views are incredible. A perfect day at the sea means diving for Paua out in Cook Strait on a beautiful calm morning.
I have bought a commercial fishing operation in Bristol Bay, Alaska where we spend June and July every year, which has become a very big part of our lifestyle. I enjoy working outdoors wherever it takes me. Doing my job, I have learned many practical skills. Working at Arapawa Blue Pearls, you can experience the freedom to bring new ideas to our operation;
I do love challenges!
FARM COORDINATOR, LEADER OF PAUA STOCK
"It is all about the magic of Arapawa Island and the paua, beautiful, unique and fragile"
I started working full-time here after I finished my schooling. A typical day at work begins after sunrise, cleaning the tanks and the paua. Then I collect, cut, and feed the seaweed to the paua where needed. I have plenty of big and small jobs to do before rechecking the paua at the end of the day. I enjoy that my work is so varied, there is always something to do, and I get to live and work in this gorgeous location.
Working at Arapawa Blue Pearls offers me flexible hours, and I can choose when I do things to build my life around my work responsibilities. I work independently, and I am self-motivated as I love what I do. In our family, everyone works hard but without feeling any pressure; for me, it has always been our way of life. I am incredibly excited to continue my father's job as the new executive of the PAU3 Industry Association Incorporated, the group of fishers that operate on the Kaikōura and Canterbury coasts, known as the PAU3 quota management area in New Zealand. It feels fantastic being part of such a passionate family business and, at the same time, making a difference for the sustainable future of the New Zealand Abalone-paua.
"It's a terrific atmosphere around and the best place to live."
Working in the family business means I can be entirely my own person. I am a jack of all trades, but my passion is fishing, diving, and becoming a successful arborist. My dream is to become a boat owner so that I can organize many activities, both here in the beautiful Marlborough Sounds, and in the future, in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
Being the youngest in the family, I have my family to look up to and work with. They have taught me all my work ethics and make each day count. Working at Arapawa Blue Pearls gives me a diverse way of life. I have learned so much from my family living here all my life. I participate in Paua diving in the Cook Strait and love being out on the sea with my family. If I am not fishing, you will find me in the workshop fixing anything mechanical: nothing is too big or too small of a job for me.
One of my favourite spots on the farm is the Gunning placement, where the government built a small concrete dwelling on top of the hillside. I was fascinated with the place, and I wanted to make into my bedroom. The panoramic views are fantastic at the top of the farm as you can spot Wellington and all the farms towards Picton. Arapawa Island is one of the best places to see the night sky. There is no light pollution, and you can even see the Milky Way.
I am learning how to be a great cook from my mother. I can cook a mean roast and enjoy cooking or smoking fish we have caught in the bay.
“If you can dream it, we can make it”
I remember well the first time that Mike and Antonia welcomed me to their island home; that was the beginning of my journey with them as their master jeweller. I really enjoy selecting the mabe pearls, designing each setting for them and following this through to bringing the Arapawa Blue Pearls into unique pieces of jewellery. It is so rewarding knowing how rare the Abalone-Paua blue pearls are, and offering each client the possibility to treasure a piece of jewellery like no other.
This job is a perfect mix for me. I have been making jewellery for more than 30 years and love fishing around Marlborough Sounds, so visiting Arapawa combines the best of my worlds. Mike and Antonia are full of inspiration, so they are constantly developing new ideas; it is exciting to be part of the team! I have enjoyed learning about the complex farming process, especially how the pearls are seeded. I feel that you are never too old to give anything a go, and Arapawa Island is the perfect place to learn new processes and enjoy life.
FARM ASSISTANT AND LEADER OF PAUA PRODUCTION
“The successful ones are those who never give up!”
I live on Arapawa Island where we have the most amazing views. I have worked at Arapawa Blue Pearls for 16 years now and this has been one of the best schools for me. I love my work, from the very first moments of walking into the Paua farm.
I enjoy supervising the tanks and knowing all is well with the Abalones: they are my babies, too and taking care of them is one of my favourite roles at Arapawa Blue Pearls. It is amazing I can be part of the full process from farming, processing, grading, and selling those precious Abalone-Paua pearls to the world.
I feel as though I am a real part of the family team. I treat every part of my work as though it is my business too, and love being part of creating such a unique product. It’s also great that in this industry there are no gender barriers, and anyone can be successful here. There is always plenty of laughter, and I have time to enjoy hunting, fishing, and tramping in this beautiful place.