07 June 2019
Hawke's Bay Today, Hawke's Bay
RILEY ELLIOTT, SHARK SCIENTIST, DRIVES A MAZDA BT-50
Driven's never met a shark scientist before . . .
It's not an everyday job, but when you consider that there are sharks in all oceans, and New Zealand has some of the best, it's surprising there aren't more of us. I am finishing off my PhD, which is studying blue sharks, at the University of Auckland. I also dabble in natural history filmmaking, primarily on sharks, with the likes of National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and Shark Week. I do most of those shows from my home in Tairua, in the Coromandel.
You're driving a Mazda BT-50?
I went for an automatic, double cab, 4WD in aluminium metallic, for those work grinds up to Auckland, and leather seats for the cool comfort and easier cleaning of the copious dog hair and sand that come with the beach lifestyle.
My lifestyle demands a truck whether it be for surfboards, dive gear, tents and a boat in tow; a load of shark chum [fish offcuts used to attract sharks]; or building supplies for my hobbies.
It helped me build my home, it transports shark cages and gets me to trout fishing rivers I would never have been able to before.
With a wipe of the leather and a hose down, I can turn up in a dress shirt and shoes for my corporate speaking engagements.
Also, I have a passion for public education related to our natural environment so I have joined Mazda's TREEmendous team that creates outdoor classrooms at schools all over New Zealand. That means I share my knowledge of the oceans with the students.
How often do you clean your BT50?
I have learned to be very careful with saltwater. I religiously hose it down. It does wonders for the life of a truck.
How far do you travel with it?
I regularly commute to Auckland to get chum, have business meetings, catch up at the university or use the airport.
Outside of that, I drive all over, whether it be to Ahipara in the Far North for a surf or down to Hawke's Bay to fly fish.
How much can you fit in it?
In the tray alone, I've had hundreds of kilos of fish offcuts for shark chum plus a shark cage and all the dive gear for a Shark Week show.
I also had materials to build my flatpack tiny homes at one stage.
Who else drives it?
Sometimes my fiancee, Amber, needs to shift some of her large fine art prints of underwater landscapes.
If you had to describe your BT50 as a well-known person?
Richie McCaw. Strong, reliable, never complains, sets a good example, always proud of it, and good-looking, too.
What was your first car?A Mazda Capella station wagon I had as a scarfie. It went through hell and back and never blinked an eye.
From driving gravel roads, in subzero snow, with no chains, to ride Cardrona; to bashing around the coastal roads of the Otago Peninsula for waves or wildlife adventures, that girl saw it all. Not once did it let me down. All those oil changes I did myself, I reckon.
Sold it to my brother for his scarfie migration. Now that's trust.
Any cars you have regretted selling?
Who taught you to drive?
My dad taught me the theory and art of driving. He is a big car guy, and a Harley guy. The practical side came through doing a defensive driving course at high school. That is something I recommend every parent get their kid to do. I've done "adult" versions with Mazda NZ, at Hampton Downs with the Track Time team and at Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds.
And your dream vehicle?
I'm in it. Honestly.
Best road trip?
Trout fishing a remote, back country river in the high country of Hawkes Bay. Best mates, camping gear, a week, and I had never driven a truck across a river before.
Friend's quote: "It's made for this stuff, isn't it?" - Donna McIntyre