An international publishing company that offers advice to help people begin careers in the mining industry, start their own radio station or engage in personal development, is being run from a mansion in Wakefield. Adam Roberts reports.
The first thing you see is Richard Nixon, in bronze, with his arms outstretched and each hand making a "V", in his famous "peace" gesture.
He is standing in the partially landscaped grounds of Haldeman, an international publishing company, in front of the Wakefield mansion its owner, Tony Katavich, calls "the office".
Inside are more photographs of the former president, who resigned following the Watergate scandal, as well as United States flags and other paintings of naval captains.
Mr Katavich's office is accessed through a series of hallways lined with plush carpet and behind a door opened with a fingerprint scanner.
The office itself is large and contains burnished leather couches and a heavy-looking desk.
Haldeman - formerly Facts and Information - is a publishing company registered in Nevada in the US, and in New Zealand, set up to help people start their own radio station, find work in the mining industry, or develop personally.
Customers pay the company a standard fee of more than $200.
Mr Katavich, an Auckland-born businessman in his 30s, began his working life by setting up a commercial radio station in Taranaki - The Mulcher - which he ran for about five years.
He had taught himself how to run a radio station and said he preferred the technical aspects, and had never been an on-air personality.
He then transitioned into advising others on how to set up radio stations, which led to advising in other fields, such as mining.
He said his work involved simplifying complicated topics into something people could understand. "We're condensing down a great deal of information and making it accessible to people in a clearly understood way so they understand exactly what their best course of action is," he said.
Haldeman trades under the name Mining Australia and Oil Australia, with each having a website offering information and assistance to people looking to enter those industries. Haldeman also trades under other names overseas, including Mining Canada and Oil Canada.
Once based in Stoke, the company moved into its new Wakefield building at the end of last year.
Haldeman was in the news recently after the Employment Relations Authority ordered the company to pay former employee Mia Nelson $35,000 in arrears of wages, lost wages arising from her dismissal, and for unfair dismissal.
Mr Katavich claimed he had fired Ms Nelson after she admitted lying on her resume and after she had created a Nazi-sympathising email address which included "hitlerhatesbabies", and used the password "ilovehitler".
Ms Nelson said one of her main roles at the company had been to set up false blogs to lower sites containing negative comments about the company in Google's search results, and that she needed to sign up for blogs using unconventional email addresses because others had been taken.
She said Mr Katavich fired her after she attended a former employee's barbecue, and denied admitting to falsifying her resume.
She told the ERA that after she attended the barbecue, her office was "basically turned into a cell and positioned so as to put me in the dunce hat corner".
The ERA sided with Ms Nelson, saying she had not brought neo-Nazi views to the company and that she had not admitted to fabricating parts of her resume.
Mr Katavich described the decision as a "nonsense" that suggested Nazism in the workplace was OK. He planned to appeal it in the Employment Court.
He said he had been in the process of preparing to move to the Wakefield address and he and his wife had been going in on weekends and getting things in order, and that was why her office was cleared of junk.
He has also filed legal proceedings against Ms Nelson and partner Joshua Dean for defamation, injurious falsehoods and breaches of the Fair Trading Act.
The legal action comes three years after he took television production company MediaWorks to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, and lodged defamation action, after a negative report Campbell Live ran about his operation.
The BSA partially upheld his complaint, saying the report had made inaccurate assertions, and Mr Katavich eventually withdrew the defamation case after the company issued an apology.
Details and responses about these cases, as well as others taken by the company, are on the company's website in a special legal section.
Mr Katavich said such litigation was no fun, but that the issues being dealt with had required a strong legal response. "When severely defamatory comments are made, it's very important that we seek to have that heard before a court and get it dealt with appropriately."
Mr Katavich said after the first defamation action with Campbell Live was resolved, it had been time to regroup.
"It occurred to me that we have got a lot of staff who are very loyal, and it also [occurred] to me as well that the staff work long hours, and it's nice to be able to work from nice premises."
He would not say how much the building cost, only saying it "certainly wasn't an inexpensive office to build".
Because the vast majority of customers came from abroad, Mr Katavich had felt that the office needed to more closely match the company's ambitions.
"If we're dealing with people from around the world it's important to have a world-class environment which tells the staff that what we do matters.
"The important thing is that we can do all of those things from Wakefield as well."
Locals had been very supportive, he said.
"This used to be an empty paddock that horses grazed around and the feedback we've had is that it's good to see growth in the town and we're very pleased to be part of the place."
The Wakefield site was chosen because it was big enough to create grounds that the staff could enjoy. An artificial lake with ducks was also planned, he said.
The career services the company offered were effective and did result in people getting into jobs, and testimonials were regularly uploaded to the site, he said.
But the mining industry was not for everyone, and not everyone ended up following through, he said.
"They may realise, ‘Oh, actually I didn't realise, you know, it's dusty in the Outback, or the hours don't suit, or I'm going to have to be away from my family for extended hours'.
"Part of what we do is bring a bit of a sense of reality to it so people can understand exactly what's involved."
There was a shortage of accurate, impartial advice, he said.
Founding a radio station was "either something you really want to do or it's something you have absolutely no interest in", he said.
"Often it's an idea that people have been playing, running over their head for a while."
There was "a heck of a lot" to know about the field, and many decisions to make.
As for the statue of Richard Nixon?
Mr Katavich said a lot of people were unaware, or chose to ignore, Nixon's focus on achieving peace in the world.
"It may seem a corny concept. But what he was able to achieve was to reach across to China, who had had no contact with the States for a couple of decades at that point, and he was able to reach across to them and start the dialogue again.
"And also with the Russians as well he was able to achieve very important accomplishments, reducing nuclear weapons and strategic arms as well, and often these achievements are overlooked by people leaping on the bandwagon of what happened at Watergate."
Reaching across and starting dialogue with people was what Haldeman was all about, he said.
Haldeman was a European name which meant "someone who dwells on the mountainside", he said.
"I think that's apt because basically you've got the option on the side of the mountain, you can either scramble your way up to the top even though it may be rough and all the rest of it, or you can give up and go down and go home."
When asked whether he knew that Nixon's White House chief of staff was named Haldeman, he said he had not realised that.
"Well, I don't know. If you're telling me that, then there you go."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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