Garry Banks Unplugged


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Garry Banks

Garry Banks seems to have been a part of bowls on the North Shore forever. Such is the ubiquity with which he appears at tournaments, on organising committees and on bowling greens. But he’s only been on the bowls scene for 11 years … much less than his sister, Blackjack Gayle Melrose.

Garry’s packed a lot of bowls stuff into that 11 years : Vice-President of the North Harbour Centre; Chair of the New Zealand Opens Masters 2020 organising committee; Regional Delegate; Member of the Executive of Beach Haven Bowling Club; Founder of the bowls lobby group Auckland City Stadium Bowls … and more.

On the green, he’s been one of those seemingly innocuous players that can cause big trouble to opponents on his day. He won the North Harbour First Year Centre Singles in 2008. He’s won 2 junior Auckland titles. He’s been a North Harbour representative player for 8 years. He was captain of the Bowls North Harbour 1-8 team when it won a national title in Wellington in 2016.

But even now, bowls is only his second love. Garry was and is a yachtie, and like his sister Gayle, was brought up living and breathing yachting.

Garry has stories galore about yachting.

With his dad, he competed in the New Zealand Flying 18 Footer Team in the Worlds at Brisbane in 1966.

After Brisbane, Garry was introduced to a young designer called Bruce Farr, who built them a four-man 18 Footer under his parents’ home. Funded by Leopard Breweries, the new skiff ‘Cool Leopard’ proved to be a dog!

But it gave rise to a new Bruce Farr-designed and built 3-man 18 foot skiff which enabled Garry to make the New Zealand Team for the1970 Worlds on Sydney Harbour. “These old light, explosive, hard-to-control monohulls really sorted the men from the boys,” recalls Garry.

Garry progressed to racing Keelers, sailing numerous off-shore races including two Sydney to Hobarts. In 1988, Garry and his team were leading the Auckland to Fiji by 70 miles, and on the brink of breaking the race record by an hour, when disaster struck and they hit a reef. “We lost the rudder … I ended up overboard hanging on to a life line… and I was lucky to escape being smashed between the boat and the reef. After a night in a life raft a helicopter picked us all up.”

That was Garry’s second escape from King Neptune. In 1981 a fishing boat broke down outside the bar at Port Waikato, and was in danger of being sunk by the building surf. “We went to help,” says Garry who can laugh about it now, “We ended up losing both boats … I was in the water for a couple of hours before the coastguard came along.”

In 1990 Garry played a major part in setting up the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Youth Sailing Programme which is still running to this day.

Along with the adventures, Garry also made a business of yachting … His first company was Elliott Yachts in Newmarket – where they built the Elliott 5.9 and 7.4, as well as 1050 Cruiser Racing yachts. His own personal 40-foot displacement launch ‘Huszar’ was a boat built for his father Jack in 1986 – one of the last to ever use heart Kauri timber – and is now the family boat also used by his 3 sons.

However, boats haven’t always been the way Garry scratched together an income.

“I was expelled from Otahuhu College when I was 15,” laughs Garry. “My old man would’ve killed me if he knew, but the form teacher went along with a story that I would be better off taking up an apprenticeship than continuing with School C.”

Garry became an apprentice butcher at the Bucklands Beach Butchery. “At the time I was vegetarian,” he laughs, “but that quickly changed!”

He changed to the rubbish carts in Hamilton and Auckland for a couple of years. “I eventually settled back to butchery at Foodtown Supermarkets and ended up there as a Butchery Manager 8 or 9 years.”

He then went on to join his father at Banks Transport, a trucking firm in Newmarket, Auckland. “That’s where I started tinkering with boat-building … in the corner of the garage.” Eventually the boat-building took over Garry’s attention.

But by 1993, the boat market had slowed – and Garry was asked to get back in to trucking again – by setting up the New Zealand operation of Australian Public Company Maxitrans. “I ended up staying with them 18 years until I retired.”

Like many bowlers, Garry has crammed, and is continuing to cram, a lot in to life. Let alone considering the wonderful times he has with his wife Diana, his three boys Lee (42); Carl (40); and Jed (38); and six grandchildren.

Garry brings all that ‘cramming’ to North Harbour Bowls. And as North Harbour bowlers have found with Garry, “if you want something done, ask a busy person!”

-Rob Davis