Who’s Who?

The Keepers of the Vine

(and other key personnel)

Mike (& Donna) Cooney

Mike (& Donna) Cooney

Editor & Heir to the Throne

Bio / Contact

Mike was born in the Chinese year of the ‘rat’, which apparently isn’t as bad as it sounds… His parents were a couple of middle-class dreamers who put it all on the line to follow a dream, and as such, Mike grew up without a TV, wearing home-sewn pants and eating mince on toast…

At 10 years he brought great shame upon his parents by being expelled from Sunday School for making the teacher cry, which wouldn’t have been so bad except his Dad was the minister…

He ran away from the embarrassment he caused and went farming in the King Country. In 1993 he met Donna, and after a whirlwind romance involving surfing trips and car crashes, she finally agreed to marry him.

The following years saw him employed as a teacher, youth worker, life-skill educator, national director, writer and father – the latter being his greatest achievement yet!

Now sometime in the not-so-new millenium, he can be found living in a secret rural location on the east coast of the Coromandel fulfilling his life-long dream of being an enigma.

When Mike’s not doing Grapevine stuff or farming, you’ll find him beekeeping, guiding outdoor adventures with Wildman or Creating Tracks, surfing, riding his mountain bike, hunting, fishing, or hanging out with his wife Donna and their four crazy teenagers … (PHEW!)

Favourite naughty snack: Condensed milk out of the can!
Favourite quote: “If the world was an orange, it would be too small.”


Tracy (& Tim) Carter

Tracy (& Tim) Carter

Deputy Editor

Bio / Contact

Tracy was born in South Africa and spent most of her childhood being carted hither and thither around the globe by her parents. As a result, her accent is unplaceable and she has no sense of direction. She paused for a decade or two in Canada to complete her schooling and then trotted off again on another overseas adventure.

Barely a fortnight after returning from her solo odyssey, Tracy pulled up a spare keg at an Irish pub and sat next to a handsome young man sipping green suds (yes, it was St.Patrick’s Day!). This young man would turn out to be her future husband, Tim (and at last we arrive at the kiwi part of the equation!).

Tracy and Tim – dynamite together (TnT) – married in 2001. Preferring the excitement of spending all their money on international moves and secondhand furniture to being ordinary, settled adults, TnT left Canada for Tim’s native NZ, had two sons, and returned to Canada (during which time they added another two sons to the mix). Fearing that this trend of moving and increasing their brood would never end, they returned to settle (properly this time) in Auckland in 2014 – and they hope that their family is now complete. Having purchased new living room furniture, it’s not looking likely that they’ll be going anywhere anytime soon.

Favourite naughty snack: A full Devonshire tea (go big or go home)
Favourite quote: “The sole purpose of a child’s middle name is so he can tell when he’s really in trouble.”

Contact: 020 422 7837 or tracy@grapevine.org.nz 

John (& Robyn) Cooney

John (& Robyn) Cooney

Founder/Publisher, and Big Cheese

Bio / Contact

John was born after the war, emerging naked and without his reading glasses.
He grew up on the foggy streets of Hamilton, and achieved nothing at
Hamilton Boys High School – aside from being the shortest kid in the third

He met Robyn in Woolworths: he, a cute little guy with short-back-and-sides
… she, an angel in stiletto heels. Knowing he would die if they couldn’t
be together, John asked for her hand in marriage. And the rest (as they say)
is history.

In 1981 John and his colleagues launched GRAPEVINE – to improve (at least in
some small way) the quality of family life in New Zealand. And the rest (as
they already said) is history. Today, he and Robyn are the youngest-looking
grandparents in history, and the proud owners of at least 100 adoring

John has spoken at countless motivational events and marriage/parenting
seminars … was keynote speaker for six years in a row at the Auckland
Mayoral Fathers Breakfast … and was a sometime voice on radio NewstalkZB.

The Cooneys have, in their own words, enjoyed a charmed life. Not that long ago they spent five years on the road as gypsies – “off to see the world!” – trading the house their family grew up in for a motorhome. Alongside their ongoing involvement with Grapevine, they’ve also enjoyed a hobby: hosting Midlife Madness adventures to exotic destinations overseas.

Favourite naughty snack: Whittakers Peanut Slabs!

Favourite quote: To everyone who received a book from me for Xmas, they’re due back at the library on Friday. Thank you.
Contact: john@grapevine.org.nz or jc@johncooney.co.nz

Brent (& Nora) Curtis

Brent (& Nora) Curtis

Sponsorship & Database Guru

Bio / Contact

Brent & Nora are married with seven children (5 girls & 2 boys) and seven grandchildren (so far!). So it’s hardly surprising they ended up working for a family organisation. They both have a background in finance and banking: “We even worked for a couple of the same institutions, but never really knew each other at either of these places!”

Today, Brent keeps himself busy as Grapevine’s Supporter Services Manager – ably assisted by Nora.

Nora’s a “soft-touch” (according to Brent) who loves teaching group fitness classes at the gym and generally keeping fit. When Brent’s not staring at a PC screen, he can usually be found doing physical stuff – around the home, visiting his kids and grandkids, watching sports on TV and most importantly … getting away with Nora for quiet little breaks every now and then.

Favourite naughty snack: Iced chocolate (Brent). Cool glass of bubbly (Nora)!

Favourite quote: “Life’s like a marathon – it’s not about how fast you run, it’s about how well you pace yourself.”


John Cowan

John Cowan

Team Writer

Bio / Contact

Many, many people, when they learn that I am John Cowan, have thanked me warmly for Grapevine Magazine and all the great articles I have written over the years. I smile and thank them, and wonder whether I should tell them that they have just mistaken me for John Cooney, the legendary founder of Grapevine, about whom so many folk songs are sung. Not only do I occasionally take the wrong name, I suspect I have taken the wrong life; I must have walked off with someone else’s whilst they weren’t looking.

According to my CV I’ve been a photographer, medical research scientist, youth worker, minister, media producer, mental health social worker, radio and TV presenter, writer… did I make up that stuff or did it really happen? Supposedly, I was a Creative Producer at the Parenting Place for more than 20 years, producing material and courses, writing manuals and books, doing media stuff and speaking at seminars all over the country, if you can believe that. These days I just potter around: I write a bit, make a few videos, do a little speaking. Every week I do a bit of radio and TV. Basically, I do whatever I like and always get surprised anyone would want to pay me for it.

Obviously, I am a fraud, an imposter.  Someone is going to be so cross when they find out I have taken off with not only their life but also their lovely wife, three great kids, a gorgeous grandchild, a cool dog and their garage full of bikes.

Favourite quote: “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” Grouch Marx.

Favourite guilty pleasure: Lots of butter on anything made of gluten, followed by antacids.

Craig Haythornthwaite

Craig Haythornthwaite

Art Boss & Graphic Genius

Bio / Contact

Craig was born in Auckland on the same day as Elvis Presley’s daughter, but that’s where any similarities end. As a young boy he was hit on the head with a golf club and knocked unconscious. He assumes he’s never been the same since (although he can’t really remember what he was like before he got hit).

Craig still feels young, despite having worked for ad agencies, design firms and publishers for nearly three decades (but, the truth is, it’s all downhill from here). He has one wife, two kids, and a very clever assistance dog named ‘Nellie’.

Favourite naughty snack: Peanut Slabs
Favourite quote: “Life is an adventure or nothing at all.” (Helen Keller)
Contact: 021 155 5534 or craig@ampersandcreative.co.nz

Frances Hall

Frances Hall

Financial Whiz

Bio / Contact

Frances was born without a silver spoon in her mouth, and raised (wearing gumboots) on a Northland farm. Following a busy few years living in California, she returned to Godzone as a single parent with four children (who are now all adults).

She joined Grapevine in 1992 and is currently our Finance Manager and sometimes Staff-Writer.

In her spare time she writes radio scripts for the ZB network … escorts travel-hungry Kiwis to Spanish-speaking destinations … and spoils her three grandchildren rotten.

Favourite naughty snack: Scorched Almonds … a box at a time!
Favourite quote: “Pain is inevitable, misery is optional, so stick a geranium in your hat and be happy!”
Contact: frances@grapevine.org.nz

Meet the rest of the Grapevine team


Tim Tripp (cartoons: Pick of the Bunch, Spot the Difference, etc)
Contact: 03 359 1577 or www.ttdesign.com


Contact: 03 307 7930 or https://inkwise.co.nz


NZ Post


Murray Grainger
Adrian Padfield
John Cooney


HLB Mann Judd
Takapuna, Auckland
Contact: www.hlb.co.nz


Gaze Burt
Nelson St, Auckland City
Contact: www.gazeburt.co.nz

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