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 [email protected] – 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!