Coastlands owner remembered as a giant

Leaving his mark: Bruce Mansell, pictured with his wife Meg last year after being inducted into the Business Kapiti Horowhenua Hall of Fame.
Leaving his mark: Bruce Mansell, pictured with his wife Meg last year after being inducted into the Business Kapiti Horowhenua Hall of Fame.

Bruce Mansell: b Bulls, May 30, 1938; m Meg Daniell, 2s; d January 15, 2013, aged 74.

Bruce Mansell, chairman of directors of Coastlands, one of the oldest shopping malls in the country, died doing what he loved best. He was working at his desk in his beloved mall.

Coastlands is the biggest retail outlet on the Kapiti Coast. Mr Mansell had been a director since the mid-1970s and has been described as one of the founding fathers of the district.

Coastlands opened in 1969 and Wellingtonians immediately began to flock there for their weekend shopping. Coastlands and a mall in New Brighton were the first in the country to offer Sunday trading.

Graduating as dux from Horowhenua College, his last school report said if he tried harder, he could achieve more.

His first job after leaving school was with AMP in Wellington where he soon became one of the youngest fellows of the Australasian Insurance Institute.

He married Meg in 1961. The couple had two sons, Alastair and Richard. In 1963, the family moved from Tawa to the Kapiti Coast, where Mr Mansell joined an accountancy practice and worked with property developer Ray Spackman. It was Mr Spackman who had the idea of building a shopping mall after a trip to Australia. Mr Mansell's small shareholding grew over the years till he took control of the company in the early 1980s.

His son, Richard, said Coastlands was his baby. "He drove it, pushed it, worked it hard and had the vision to see it through so people would want to keep coming."

Supporting many community projects over the years, Mr Mansell was a Jaycee, Rotarian, JP and recently a director of the Horowhenua-Kapiti Rugby Union.

A devoted father, he was a cub leader and coached rugby when his young sons were playing, often joining in games to help a struggling side even up the score.

Tall in stature, he would sometimes scoop up young players and vault over others to get the ball to the other end of the field for a try.

Involved in a lot of subdivision work in the 1970s, he and a group of friends developed Nimmo St East and West, Richmond Ave, Fleetwood Grove, Wakefield Grove and Windsor Ave in Waikanae.

Through his involvement with the Ballinger family, he was instrumental in developing a subdivision around Makarini St in Paraparaumu and Te Roto Industrial Estate.

His last major contribution was signing off $750,000 last year towards the Coastlands aquatic centre in Paraparaumu.

His quirky sense of humour was displayed often, including donning speedos for an end-of-year retirement village skit and wearing trademark tartan trousers.

Farming was also a passion. A brief stint deer farming revealed he had an allergy to the animals and he switched to breeding simmental cattle on his Otaihanga farm, sparking his new trend - ties emblazoned with cows.

He took great pride in his stock.

"He was obsessive. He had a nickname for every one and knew their bloodlines," Richard said.

"He wanted to breed the best. His catchphrase was, 'If you are going to do it, you do it to win'."

He completed a $17 million upgrade of the mall last year and made a public stand strongly opposing parts of a proposed Kapiti Coast District Council town-centre plan to develop retail, commercial and community sectors opposite Coastlands in Rimu Rd.

Mr Mansell believed retailers in the area were already finding business tough and did not need the added pressure of more competition.

"His favourite quote was that it took him 40 years to develop Coastlands, other people wanted to replicate the mall but it would not be sustainable unless we doubled our population," Richard said.

For more than 30 years, he worked in close partnership with the Ngahina Trust, the owners of Maori freehold land west and south of the mall that was needed for development.

Trust director Kura Marie Taylor described Mr Mansell as a "giant of giants, the trust's highly respected friend, a pillar of power, strength and knowledge, an honourable philanthropist whose honour was his bond".

Miss Taylor said the partnership was regarded as a model for bicultural ventures.

"He was master of this unique, bicultural waka. The business partnership has flourished through a shared sense of fair play, mutual respect and trust.

"We have never had an argument and all business was done in good humour. There was never a dissenting vote. All decisions were unanimous.

"Bruce Mansell carried enormous mana, achieved impressively, was an exceptional negotiator for Ngahina Trust, yet he remained a humble philanthropist.

"He brought two groups together and took them on a wonderful adventure," she said.

His sons, Richard and Alastair, are partners in Mansell Associates and Richard is taking on his father's role running Coastlands and continuing with development.

"We cannot sit still. We have land we will keep developing. Life must go on," he said.

Bruce is survived by his wife, sons and five grandchildren.

Contact Kay Blundell
Kapiti reporter

The Dominion Post