19 November 1948 – 16 June 2022
Tributes have been paid by winegrowers, tourism operators and community leaders throughout the region to Mary Evans, who died unexpectedly last month after a short illness. Mary was a passionate advocate for Matakana and its environs, whether as a wine and tourism destination or as a thriving community in which to live and bring up a family.
She was born in London in 1948. Her parents emigrated to NZ two years later and settled in Murupara, but Mary’s earliest memories were of Kenya, where her father worked for four years as a civil engineer on the main road through the Great Rift Valley. She went to primary school there and enjoyed a very different life, including being photographed on a rhinoceros.
When her parents returned to New Zealand, Mary went to Rotorua Girls High School, then Waikato University, where she obtained a teaching degree and a Masters in English. After graduation, she moved to Auckland to teach in a variety of primary and secondary schools, and it was here that she met her husband, David Hoskins, in 1974.
Mary was very active in feminist groups in Auckland throughout the 1970s, and in 1977, she and David established the alternative state school, Auckland Metropolitan College, where Mary taught for a year or so, before moving to Loreto Hall Teachers’ Training College.
During this time, Mary and David would frequently visit the wineries in West Auckland and in the mid-1980s, they decided on a complete change in direction by starting their own vineyard.
After seeking the right site for a couple of years, they found 20 acres of bare land in Sharp Road, Matakana in 1987, and Heron’s Flight was born.
While the vineyard and winery gradually took shape, Mary continued teaching at many Rodney primary schools, as well as Tangaroa College and Mahurangi College, where she was on the Board of Trustees for three years.
Mary always took an active role in community matters and was one of the pioneers in promoting Matakana as a distinctive wine and food destination, becoming a mentor to many producers starting out in the region.
David said she always saw the production of grapes and wine as a special activity.
“Wine, she would often say, is not an end in itself, but a means for bringing people together,” he said.
“For stimulating discussion between friends. And she saw Heron’s Flight as an opportunity to welcome a wide range of visitors.”
These included billeting international students from Mahurangi College, hosting Kanak tertiary students from New Caledonia and welcoming countless international visitors to the Heron’s Flight cellar door.
Mary was also a terrific cook and loved sharing whatever she was making. She was instrumental in the early Slow Food movement in Matakana and was the driving force behind the popular cafe in the early days of Heron’s Flight.
Fiercely intelligent, Mary will be remembered for her energy, public-spiritedness and as a staunch supporter of the underdog. She was keenly interested in people and projects, and a challenging and incisive questioner, but she was also unfailingly kind, self-effacing and welcoming and hospitable to all.
Mary is survived by David, sons Luke and Gwynn, daughter-in-law Heather, and beloved grandsons Leighton and Luca. The family is planning a public celebration of her life in the spring on her birthday, November 19, at Heron’s Flight.