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How Well do we Know People in our Community?

June 9, 2021 June 2021, Regular Features No Comments

Phillip Percy.

Phillip Percy and his wife Sarah came to live permanently in Martinborough in 2006, deciding “Over the Hill” with its blue skies and sunshine was the best place to call home.

An Honours Degree in Resource Management and Environmental Planning from Massey University paved the way for a position with the Wellington Regional Council in the late 1990’s after working for a land development company on the Kāpiti Coast.  

“That first job, where I learned so much but had little influence over the outcomes, helped me realise where my priorities and values lay”, says Phil.  “Contributing to sand dunes being bulldozed and wetlands being drained did not fit my comfort levels. But it was a first step on the ladder.” 

“Moving to Wairarapa and working with the Regional Council was a formative time. I made new friends and learned my way around local government processes and systems. Computer technology was rapidly replacing the traditional manual systems and creating new ways of interacting with others. 

After 2 years of travel and international experience Phil and Sarah returned to New Zealand, firstly to Christchurch and then Martinborough where Phil commuted to Wellington to work for Beca. Among other projects, he was involved with the development of the Horizons Regional Council ‘One Plan’, the first combined regional policy statement and plan in the country 

  In 2006 Phil decided he was ready to start building a consultancy business that fully aligned with his values. Perception Planning’s first office was the spare bedroom.  When the spare bedroom was needed for family and the workload increased, the office moved to the old Mills Bakery.  As the business grew, Helen Marr came onboard as a business partner. Staff numbers increased.  Now with a team of 15 staff, the company name has changed to “Kāhu Environmental”. “The reason we did this,” said Phil, “is that we felt strongly that the company name should better reflect who we are and what we do. Our team now includes ecologists, kaupapa taiao specialists, technical communicators, and planners. 

Choosing the Kāhu, which is the Māori name for the Swamp Harrier, as part of our name reflects the values of our organisation. Kāhu combine a high-level perspective with precision and accuracy. 

Much of Phil’s business work takes place outside the Wairarapa. It ranges from involvement with major infrastructure projects such as the Manawatū Gorge replacement road (Te Ahu a Turanga); a new lower North Island freight hub proposed by KiwiRail; district and regional plan development; helping with community catchment plans and stream restoration projects. 

Recent local projects include obtaining resource consents for the Pain & Kershaw redevelopment in Martinborough and The Orchards retirement village in Greytown, and preparing a change to the Wairarapa Combined District Plan to support the Wairarapa International Dark Sky Reserve.

“What I am most proud of,” says Phil, “is that we are a values-based company. We are focussed on looking after people and the environment, treating both with respect, and putting that ahead of maximising profit. We won’t make the rich list but we can’t help but create a positive legacy if we keep doing that, and I reckon that is much more rewarding.”

Spare Time?  “Yes, I enjoy coaching my son’s soccer team.  I like to be creative. We have just turned an old trampoline into an excellent practice soccer net. There are also a number of Martinborough children’s stories in circulation”.

Lyle Griffiths


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