27 Nov 2015

Tea Tree and Touch Downs

From Country Life, 9:45 pm on 27 November 2015
Former international airline pilot Nicholas Murray Leslie now produces tea tree oil.He is wearing his service medals standing in his lounge at home in Whitianga.

Former international airline pilot Nicholas Murray Leslie now produces tea tree oil. Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

International airline pilot turned Whitianga farmer Nicholas Murray Leslie thought he wanted to be a doctor.

He'd grown up in the U.K, his father had been to war and didn't have the money to put young Nicolas through medical school.

So Nicholas' father asked his seven Scottish uncles, who were well-respected Edinburgh doctors, if they could help out. 

"They had a kind of committee meeting.... and they came back to my father and they said 'Well it's a pity that your son  Nicky is not a bit brighter but we cannae waste our money."

Nicholas says he's glad they made that decision. 

"The best thing that ever happened was (for me) to go to work in the mines at Huntly and pay for my education as a pilot."

Nicholas came to New Zealand by ship in 1955. He was 20, had one pound in his pocket and the promise of a job in Taranaki as a herd tester. His next position was driving bulldozers at the coal mines in Huntly; a dangerous job with long hours but one that paid well well enough for Nicolas to be able to afford flying lessons.

Once he qualified as a commercial pilot, he worked for NAC and Bay of Plenty Airways before landing a job with Qantas and moving up the ranks to become a 747 captain.

He'd fly over the Coromandel Peninsula on his way into New Zealand, look down and think it was a beautiful part of the world.

For 30 years now Nicolas has been based on his organic sheep and beef farm just out of Whitianga where he also has  a tea tree oil production business.

Manuka and Kanuka is harvested from the property, the oil is distilled on site and is exported around the world.