The original Ladies’ Long Lunch is back, and it’s Tauranga’s hottest ticket for a reason.

After rais­ing over $24,000 for its two char­i­ty part­ners in 2015, then lift­ing the bar in 2016 with a sell-out crowd of 800 wom­en, gen­er­at­ing over $73,000, the Ladies’ Long Lunch com­mit­tee has its sights set on a lofty goal for 2017.

On Fri­day 3 Novem­ber, the Ladies’ Long Lunch com­mit­tee hopes to raise more mon­ey than ever before for its two char­i­ty part­ners and pull off the most suc­cess­ful, and most inti­mate, event to date — com­plete with unique degus­ta­tion that has nev­er been done before in New Zealand.

The menu is just one of many excit­ing changes – there were only 300 tick­ets avail­able for this year’s char­i­ty lunch.

This time around we are all about the details,” says self-con­fessed organ­is­ing guru Katy Mart­ley. “While we knew demand would be high­er than the num­ber of seats avail­able, we’re also very aware that our ladies want to expe­ri­ence some­thing inti­mate at this year’s event, where they can con­nect more with the two char­i­ties involved. This con­cept of ‘con­nect­ed­ness’ has dri­ven many of the changes we’ve put in place.”

The event boasts an organ­is­ing com­mit­tee of the high­est cal­i­bre, with newest com­mit­tee mem­ber Katy join­ing a group of ded­i­cat­ed local vol­un­teers after tak­ing a break from her high-fly­ing law career in 2016. Katy spent many years in both crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions and civil work in Lon­don, Welling­ton, and more recent­ly, seri­ous crim­i­nal mat­ters with the Crown Solic­i­tors Office in Tau­ran­ga. She’s now putting all of her ener­gy into exe­cut­ing a new and improved take on Tauranga’s favourite char­i­ty lunch (as well as coach­ing her daughter’s net­ball team to vic­to­ry, but that’s anoth­er sto­ry…).

I loved being a lawyer, but I came to the real­i­sa­tion that I wasn’t able to affect change in the way I want­ed to. One day my hus­band said to me ‘why don’t you stop pro­cras­ti­nat­ing and just do it?’ so that was it – I left my job and jumped straight into vol­un­teer work. The whole thing was a valu­able learn­ing process that I don’t regret, I’ve built skills that are total­ly trans­ferrable. I’m glad I can now use the­se skills to ben­e­fit the com­mu­ni­ty.”

The same, but not as we know it…

While the event con­tin­ues to sup­port the orig­i­nal char­i­ties, Good Neigh­bour and Te Aranui Youth Trust, the com­mit­tee decid­ed it was time for a change of venue in line with this year’s more per­son­alised vibe.

It was at our first plan­ning meet­ing last year when we thought let’s shake things up. After two years of cater­ing to mass num­bers at ASB Are­na, we thought Toi Ohomai Insti­tute of Technology’s beau­ti­ful Tau­ran­ga cam­pus would be a per­fect loca­tion to deliv­er a tru­ly bespoke event.

Left to right: Katy Mart­ley, Mat Tom­lin­son, Danielle Squire, Tanya Grim­stone, Jen­ny Rudd, Rhys Arrow­smith, Lav­ina Good (the hand­some Zak Lassey was unavail­able for this pho­to).

We also decid­ed to hold the event in spring because it’s such a love­ly time of year, peo­ple are in a good mood, the sun is start­ing to shine… it was a no-brain­er! As we start­ed to change our think­ing around the event, it start­ed a land­slide of new and cre­ative ideas about how we could improve it,” explains Katy.

Ladies’ Long Lunch 2016

This new way of think­ing cul­mi­nat­ed in a left of field con­cept that has nev­er been done before: Toi Ohomai stu­dents will cre­ate and serve a degus­ta­tion ban­quet to 300 guests, with each dish made entire­ly from res­cued food.

We approached Toi Ohomai with the idea, and to our delight, they loved it and want­ed to give it a go!”

And just like that, under the guid­ance of celebri­ty chef and Toi Ohomai tutor Peter Blake­way, hos­pi­tal­i­ty stu­dents will con­ceive and pre­pare this year’s meal sole­ly from food that has been res­cued by dozens of com­mu­ni­ty vol­un­teers through Good Neighbour’s Food Res­cue, with the project offi­cial­ly writ­ten into their cur­ricu­lum for their final year assess­ment.

Making a difference

Both char­i­ties held a place in Katy’s heart before she joined the organ­is­ing com­mit­tee. After check­ing out of the cor­po­rate rat-race, Katy threw her­self into vol­un­teer­ing with Good Neigh­bour and Te Aranui, not real­is­ing they were con­nect­ed in any way. It was there she met Lav­ina Good (Ladies’ Long Lunch founder) and the rest is his­to­ry.

I’ve always been the organ­is­er of the group — even when I was a lawyer, I was con­venor of the Welling­ton Wom­en Lawyers Asso­ci­a­tion and organ­ised their annu­al fundrais­er, rais­ing mon­ey for schol­ar­ships for stu­dents who couldn’t afford their fees. So when Lav­ina asked me to join the com­mit­tee, of course my respon­se was yes! I couldn’t think of a bet­ter way to utilise my skills than to sup­port an event and two char­i­ties I am pas­sion­ate about. It was the per­fect mar­riage of the rea­sons I was hav­ing a year off.

Two deserving recipients

If you’re not famil­iar with the Ladies’ Long Lunch’s two char­i­ty part­ners, Good Neigh­bour has three strings to its bow: food res­cue, com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens and neigh­bour­hood projects, while Te Aranui focus­es on empow­er­ing young peo­ple to engage with their com­mu­ni­ties and make con­sci­en­tious life choic­es.

Every cent raised from the event will go direct­ly to the two char­i­ties, with Good Neigh­bour putting the funds toward a com­mer­cial kitchen at Food Res­cue and Te Aranui invest­ing the dona­tion in its valu­able youth cours­es.

The two char­i­ties actu­al­ly cross paths them­selves — Te Aranui is one of many char­i­ties that receives food direct­ly from Good Neigh­bour. From 13 sup­port­ing super­mar­kets in Tau­ran­ga and Mount Maun­ganui alone, Good Neigh­bour res­cues an aver­age of 1300kgs of food per day. That’s over 300 ton­nes per year, equalling 860,000 meals and $2.1 mil­lion val­ue. It makes you think, doesn’t it?

There’s a per­cep­tion that this food must be ‘off’ or ‘bad’, but it’s not at all – super­mar­kets have a high thresh­old for sale so it could sim­ply be down to pack­ag­ing that is dam­aged. We’re real­ly excit­ed about what the chefs are going to do with the meals for this year’s event. Not only is the food going to be cre­ative and deli­cious, but sus­tain­able.”

$0 budget, 100% commitment

The Ladies’ Long Lunch is an unde­ni­ably suc­cess­ful fundrais­ing event, but its ded­i­cat­ed com­mit­tee is what real­ly sets it apart from oth­er char­i­ty func­tions.

No one is get­ting direct­ly paid to organ­ise the event — it’s 100% vol­un­teer work. We’re lucky to have such a fan­tas­tic group of peo­ple with so many dif­fer­ent back­grounds and strengths to share.”

Katy is in great com­pa­ny alongside Lav­ina Good, founder of the Ladies’ Long Lunch and own­er of Brook­field New World Super­mar­ket in Tau­ran­ga. She’s also a Board Mem­ber of Te Aranui Youth Trust and co-found­ed the suc­cess­ful Food Res­cue Ser­vice for Good Neigh­bour.

Rhys Arrow­smith, past CEO of Tourism Bay of Plen­ty, brings a wealth of busi­ness and com­mu­ni­ty knowl­edge, then you’ve got cre­ative flair and exper­tise from Zak Lassey, own­er of Flame Adver­tis­ing, and Jen­ny Rudd, own­er and edi­tor of the Bay’s favourite and most suc­cess­ful mag­a­zine, UNO. All com­mit­tee vol­un­teers believe pas­sion­ate­ly in what the Ladies’ Long Lunch stands for and will­ing­ly donate their own mon­ey, time and skills to ensure the suc­cess of the event.

Even though we’re vol­un­teers, our com­mit­tee is extreme­ly knowl­edge­able and more moti­vat­ed than any oth­er group I’ve been involved with,” says Katy.

Anoth­er bold move the com­mit­tee is mak­ing this year is attempt­ing a ‘zero bud­get’ to ensure max­i­mum funds go direct­ly into the pock­ets of the two char­i­ties.

Even though there are some costs we can’t avoid, approach­ing the event this way has meant that we’ve man­aged to keep costs very low. The respon­se from our sup­pli­ers and the com­mu­ni­ty has been amaz­ing.”

What success looks like

When I ask her for a ‘sneak peek’ into this year’s enter­tain­ment, Katy says her lips are sealed.
“I can’t give too much away, but we def­i­nite­ly have some excit­ing enter­tain­ment in store for the end of the day! We’re also keep­ing our speak­ers under wraps for the time being.

Suc­cess, to us, is wom­en walk­ing away from our event sim­ply say­ing ‘WOW.’ It would be amaz­ing if they want­ed to con­tin­ue their rela­tion­ship with our two char­i­ties, but we’d be just as hap­py if they felt inspired to go and vol­un­teer with a char­i­ty that is close to their own hearts. It’s all about spread­ing those good vibes.”

If you’re any­thing like me, you’ll be champ­ing at the bit to join in the fun next mon­th. If you don’t already have your hands on a tick­et, how­ev­er, you’re unfor­tu­nate­ly out of luck. The good news is you can reg­is­ter your inter­est in next year’s event by email­ing ladieslonglunchtauranga@gmail.com — make sure you get in quick!

Quick fire questions with the lawyer-turned-volunteer-turned-event guru, Katy:

Best thing about liv­ing in the Bay? The sun!

Favourite brunch spot? Nour­ish in Te Puna (I always get the eggs bene)

Three things you can’t leave home with­out? My chil­dren, sun­glass­es, and my phone…boring but true!

Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Trust in your­self to make the best deci­sions for you

Thing you’re most excit­ed about for this year’s Ladies’ Long Lunch? See­ing the dif­fer­ent reac­tions on people’s faces through­out the day – I can’t wait!