Former All Blacks captain Taine Randell on life after rugby

Taine Randell, pictured with his wife and fellow Kiwigarden founder Joanne Edwards, is now a successful businessman.


Taine Randell, pictured with his wife and fellow Kiwigarden founder Joanne Edwards, is now a successful businessman.

Taine Randell’s All Blacks career spanned 1995 to 2002 and included 51 tests and 12 test tries. He played for the Highlanders in Super Rugby and represented Otago. He later played for English club Saracens.

I was made redundant by All Blacks coach John Mitchell in 2003, even though I was his captain the year before, and I was playing for the Barbarians in the UK that season when Bart Campbell, an agent, said, ‘Come and meet this guy.’

It turned out to be Nigel Wray who owned Saracens and he made a compelling offer for me to play for the club. My wife Jo had worked in the UK for a couple of years and said, ‘Come on, let’s go and do it again.’ Super Rugby had finished and it was sunny in the UK, which was a nice change from normally being there in November–December.

I’d been picked for the All Blacks in 2002 but knew my days were numbered. I’d never really wanted to play in the UK but had such a good time there in 2003 I said, ‘Okay, let’s go.’ I had a couple of seasons at Saracens: the first was good, the second a slog, but we did really well and qualified for the European Cup.

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Jo had a great job with Airwaves, a communications company who were part of O2, and during the six weeks off-season I worked for Barclays Banking but didn’t like it.

Taine Randell leads the haka against South Africa in 2002.


Taine Randell leads the haka against South Africa in 2002.

I went for an interview at a brokerage firm and spoke to someone for about 10 minutes. My interview was winding down and appeared to be going nowhere. The boss initially said he had no intention of giving me a job; he just wanted to meet an All Black! He was a paratrooper, an outstanding guy. Suddenly, he said, ‘Let’s talk wages. When can you start?’

So in my last year playing rugby I worked three afternoons a week at Tradition Financial Services in the heart of London. I dealt in oil futures with three clients. There were six of us on a desk and our clients were banks, speculators, airlines and petrol companies. We’d have three or four screens each, several phones with noise all around, buying and selling crude in a version of the stock exchange and money market.

When I started the oil price was 32 bucks, later it went to 149 per barrel and when I left it was in the 70s and then went back down to 34. Halfway through 2008 we went on holiday with our two kids in Turkey, it was pissing down and Jo broke down at the airport and said, ‘I’ve been in Dunedin for 12 years, here for seven, it’s cold and I’m going home. You can come if you want.’

I handed in my resignation on the day Lehman Brothers went bust. I stayed for another six weeks because I wasn’t going to a competitor, whereas normally they kicked you out the door straight away. Jo went early because her mother was crook, but I handed my clients over and went on the lunch and booze circuit.

We took a few months to get back to New Zealand and travelled through Italy, Egypt, Turkey and Dubai with Lanson, who is 13 now, and Tori who is 11 – while we also have Tenara now who is seven.

Trading was a real mix. We had a Greek Cypriot woman who looked after all the Indians and Pakistanis, while some tech guys and I were in charge of all the pisshead English buffoons, the hooray Henry set who were good boys, gamblers and very social.

One of the deals we did was over a long lunch with Macquarie Bank and BP when we were arguing about prices. We signed on the beer coaster, a guy with a rickshaw drew up, one guy gave him a card and some instructions and half an hour later the deal was done for 100,000 barrels of oil. Behind all the nonsense, they were brilliant mathematicians.

Rugby - The Afterlife by Wynne Gray comes out on April 12.


Rugby – The Afterlife by Wynne Gray comes out on April 12.

It took a while to get tuned into the futures markets and how the oil price is linked to currency, whereas in New Zealand the focus is agricultural with dairy futures and carbon credits and that sort of stuff.

We wandered our way back home and thought we’d have enough money to exist for a while, but that wasn’t the case. We fluffed around for a few years and lived at the beach at Waimarama, 25 kilometres east of Hastings, which is a great spot but travelling to town each day wasn’t good. Then we moved to live with Jo’s parents on their farm for three months before buying Alan Duff’s house, which was about a third built and put out to tender when he went bust.

I don’t know that we’d do it again. We are still there on a couple of acres, but it was a massive project to finish.

Jo was still working for her London firm, the kids were just starting school and I had no idea what I wanted to do because there was no money market in Hawke’s Bay.

In 2009, we were sorting out the assets of my grandmother who was a Maori landowner and thought about this emissions trading scheme thing.

A lot of Maori blocks are in forestry and when we were in London trading oil, the emissions trading scheme started in Europe in 2005 and by the time I finished three years later, you could buy oil and carbon credits to offset that, so I knew quite a bit about how the European scheme worked. There were some similarities in New Zealand.

We ended up doing a few things in the carbon credit space and that’s when I started a little company specialising in carbon credits. New Zealand has obligations through the Kyoto Protocol to keep to certain levels in what is the biggest agreement governing climate change. There are lots of rules and there is a level New Zealand has to achieve. If we produce more carbon, we have to buy credits out of the international market, and if we produce less the government can sell our allocation.

The Kyoto Protocol gives the government 64 million credits annually, so at the end of the year we have to account for that number. If we produce 65 million we have go to the market to buy from someone who doesn’t produce as much carbon, and if we produce only 60 million, the government can sell the rest of the allocation to, say, Japan.

Every tree grown by landowners absorbs a certain amount of carbon dioxide, and for every ton they absorb there is a credit, which is basically an internal exchange. So the carrot is you reduce the amount of carbon by becoming more efficient; otherwise you have to buy carbon credits to offset it.

The incentive for landowners is to grow more trees because that is the international way of offsetting credits and we have our Maori land. I had a vague idea how it worked globally, but in New Zealand no-one had a clue.

The first timeframe was 2012 so we were flat out going around mainly Maori blocks of land to explain to them how the scheme worked. Te Puni Kokiri now has just under 40 million credits in its account.

We also worked for our company Tipu Green and it was an awesome job travelling from one end of the country to another seeing some stunning regions. We worked with Maori trusts in Te Kuiti, Taumarunui, Ruatoria and Hicks Bay where people are often dirt poor but have great natural food resources.

I was stunned. I’ve become a bit of a greenie, a bit worryingly, but commercially it is irresponsible to do it any other way. We have to do things differently not because of the touchy-feely thing but commercially it makes sense. We have other clients we are still looking after, but our main job with Maori land blocks is done.

Then I joined Ngati Kahungunu as a director in 2010. They are the third biggest iwi in the country and representatives are elected by the marae. In 2007 as part of the fisheries settlement they started a company that had to be managed independently of the iwi and I sit on the board.

Ngahiwi Tomoana is head of our iwi, a funny, innovative statesman with a great presence who is a distant relative and used to work overseas with Pita Sharples. The iwi owns us 100 per cent and we manage the assets for them.

Historically, our biggest assets were deep-water fishing for hoki and orange roughy. We used to lease a boat and the company was very passive with their quota, but we have kicked up the operations. We bought a boat that went out this year from the top of the South Island and have shares in a company, Fiordland Lobster, that exports live crayfish.

It is the biggest company in Australasia by some way with a couple of hundred million bucks’ turnover. It is run out of Te Anau and deals in live lobster. They are caught and put in tanks where the water temperature is decreased to put them to sleep, then they are packed in polystyrene bins and sent to China. We hear about processing food, but with crayfish the less you can do the more valuable it is.

We fly them out of Christchurch and Auckland; we bought a huge depot in East Tamaki.

Taine Randell was axed by John Mitchell after being his captain the previous season.


Taine Randell was axed by John Mitchell after being his captain the previous season.

The iwi has been building resources and were in discussions about buying a fishing company in Hawke’s Bay for table fish like tarakihi and gurnard, and it bought into a farm four years ago. We have six directors and I am the executive director of our iwi, which extends from Mahia all the way to the bottom of Wairarapa and the top of Wellington. I’m also on the Hawke’s Bay Airport board and Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Council, and working on those boards occupies about half my time.

About four years ago Jo and I started a freeze-dried food company called Kiwigarden, with my father-in- law as the main shareholder. It is the largest operation of its kind in the southern hemisphere. While New Zealand is our shop window, it takes only about 5 per cent of our market and the rest is export. We launched a brand of kids’ freeze-dried snacks with apples, kiwifruit, banana and other fruit yoghurt drops for kids from nine months to 10 years. It’s an overseas idea that we adapted.

Although it lost money for the first few years, we are now selling into China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, maybe Australia in a while. Jo runs that business while I am more the sounding board.

Carbon credits is about a three-week job now, Kiwigarden keeps me busy, then working as a director of Fiordland Lobster, the Hawke’s Bay Airport work and the regional council, which looks after issues like the port at Napier.

When I left London, I did not envisage this as my life. The rugby was full-on, but I got sick of it, and it became a job and then a slog because as a 30-year-old I had to train all the time doing the same things as a 17-year-old, although we were at very different stages of our careers. I wasn’t going to get any faster, but it wasn’t till near the end that the coaches tailored my training.

Back home the Maori Agricultural College, which had famous old boys like Louis Paewai and George Nepia, hadn’t won a game for three years when they conned me into going along, saying hello and giving them a pep-up. I played a few seasons for them but stopped because I was coaching my kids and the overlap was too much.

All Black captain Taine Randell married Jo Edwards in a ceremony at Woodford House, Havelock North, in 2002.


All Black captain Taine Randell married Jo Edwards in a ceremony at Woodford House, Havelock North, in 2002.

The only reason Jo let me play was because the college staff are Mormons and there was no drinking. Playing away was good, because I’d play lock for the second half of a game and then have two beers. If I trained, I couldn’t play because I’d be too sore. Playing lock was easy as you just pushed. It was great fun being with a family club and with people enjoying life.

The Randells are Mormons, and have been going back all the way to the 1930s. My grandparents were bishops and on the way to the races or the beach on Sundays, my parents would drop me off at my grandparents to go to church.

Our kids have been involved in the church. I accompanied them on a trip to Utah, which was the most stunning, interesting trip I’ve ever been on. Our kids were in an academy that Paul Henare started. Every two years the academy has a trip to Utah, while members of the Utah Jazz have been out to Flaxmere on missions.

We embraced it and on the first night there we were billeted and had prayers and got involved.

The Mormons have an amazing health benefit system and deliver more than the Red Cross; they are very generous and at the same time teach that God will only help those who help themselves. I haven’t signed up, but it was fascinating and we’re going back next year.

Taine Randell burst onto the scene for Otago and the Highlanders.


Taine Randell burst onto the scene for Otago and the Highlanders.

I’ve been coaching and I looked after Lanson’s rugby team for a couple of years before he got sick of me and went to high school. Now I’m with Tori’s team, and Tenara is playing hockey and basketball. It’s a great buzz. I love it and want to help them enjoy it.

We take the kids to school then work school hours, pick them up, give them dinner, take them to sport and then we might go for a walk to discuss things or do some work after dinner. We don’t watch a lot of TV, but I manage to see Otago games, the Highlanders, All Blacks tests and the Magpies.

When our kids go to basketball we do a gym session at the same time, or in the morning if they are in the gym we’ll go as well, but I don’t push too hard. I’m just over my playing weight at 117kg but I’ve got heavy bones, and I taste more of the grape than beer. Hawke’s Bay is great, and the social and business side of life are both going well.

Extract from Rugby – The Afterlife by Wynne Gary, $39.95 RRP (Upstart Press)

 – Stuff

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