Monday, August 31, 2020

Oratia Media Celebrates 20 Years Today

Today marks 20 years since Peter Dowling and Alessandra Zecchini incorporated Oratia Media as a company.

Still going strong two decades on, our small company has changed and grown, while remaining grounded in the ngahere (forest) near the upper end of West Coast Road, Oratia, in the mighty Waitakere Ranges west of Auckland. 

Above all today offers the chance to thank our many clients, readers, collaborators, staff, contractors, family and supporters.  

The original logo: image designed by Alessandra, text by Myong-ok Kim

While publishing has been a core part of what we’ve always done, we chose the name ‘Media’ to reflect our pursuit of different activities (it also sounded good alongside ‘Oratia’!).

At establishment, that involved Alessandra teaching language and culture at the Dante Alighieri Italian Society of Auckland, running cooking classes and contributing food and travel articles to publications in New Zealand, Italy and Japan. 

Food styling with models Patricia Greig and Arantxa Zecchini Dowling (top) and photographer Shaun Cato-Symonds (bottom left)

Peter was then editor-at-large for Tokyo publisher Kozo System, editor and correspondent for Reed Business Information of London, and senior editor on contact to Reed Publishing (NZ) in Birkenhead. 

In 2002 Peter joined Reed NZ full-time as managing editor, later becoming publishing manager until the company’s sale in late 2007.

Over that time Alessandra ramped up her recipe development and food-styling activities, became a regular contributor to magazines including Cuisine, NZ House and Garden and NZ Gardener, launched her first two cookbooks with New Holland Publishers, and created the Festival Italiano through the Dante Society.

Alessandra at the Festival Italiano 2018, received the Ordine della Stella D'Italian honour from Italian Ambassador Fabrizio Marcelli for her services to promoting Italian culture internationally

From 2008 we have worked exclusively through Oratia, with 2009 marking the launch of the company’s own book list, initially under the Libro International brand and since 2016 as Oratia Books. Over that time we’ve published close on 150 books (both our own and for others), while writing and editing several million words in articles, books and reports around the world. 

Our first major commissioned book, the late Graeme Hunt's history of St John in New Zealand, 2009

None of this would have been possible without our clients (for details see, or talented authors and illustrators (thank you to everyone listed at Then there are the brilliant booksellers, librarians and teachers who support us, and our fine team of regular and freelance professionals. 

Among the ‘Oratia family’ our heartfelt thanks to Editorial Director Carolyn Lagahetau, who has been a key player since 2008, and to Marketing Consultant Belinda Cooke for her exceptional contribution since 2015.

Taking life seriously with our dream team, from left: designer Cheryl Smith, marketing supremo Belinda Cooke, illustrator Ross Kinnaird, editorial director Carolyn Lagahetau, author Dawn McMillan and Peter

Without wishing to omit anyone, special appreciation to designer Cheryl Smith of Macarn Design and more recently Sarah Elworthy; former marketing manager Isabell Zitzelsberger; editors Mike Bradstock, Susan Brierley, Frances Chan and Patricia Greig; sales reps Jeremy Bliss, Peter Gray, Dennis Morgan and Gary Shannon; Marie Edwards, Toni Hayman, Sue Kellett and team at our distributors Publishers Distribution Ltd; and web designers Isra Salcedo (Humilde Servidor) and Daisuke Hirata (Box Media). 

Carolyn Lagahetau with the late Graeme Leather

And we remember those who are no longer with us: the beloved designer and editor Graeme Leather, sales supremo Paul Greenberg, and authors Trixie Harvey, Graeme Hunt, Gavin McLean, Don Stafford and Pā Henare Tate.

The late Pā Henare Tate (right) with Sister Magdalen Sheahan (centre) receiving the Māori Book Award for his He Puna Iti i te Ao Mārama in 2013

Author Malcolm Paterson with son Davin at the Going West Writers Festival 2016

Student volunteer Coline Rouge promoting our books at the IBBY World Congress in Auckland, 2016

Internationally we count on some fine distributors: thanks to Charles Goulding at John Reed Books (Australia), Joel Cosseboom and Royden Muranaka at University of Hawai’i Press (North America) and Melanie Warren and team at Gazelle Book Services in Lancaster (UK and Europe). Chris Shaw and the crew at Book Systems International get the books from our printers and out to book fairs.

Sub-agents like Fanny Yu at CA-Link in Beijing, Anna Spadolini and her agency in Milan, and Pablo de la Vega at Base Tres in Guadalajara help us reach many markets. 

Peter managing the first-ever New Zealand stand at the Guadalajara International Book Fair, 2017, with assistant Claudia Esqueda

Voluntary and community activities are an important part of Oratia’s culture, with long-standing commitments to the Dante Society, Slowfood Auckland, Te Potiki National Trust (Māori Maps), Oratia District School, Storylines Children’s Literature Foundation and the Publishers Association of New Zealand. 

Paora Tapsell, chair of Te Potiki National Trust, presenting the trust's annual Hawea Vercoe Memorial Scholarship to Ihaka Wilson at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Rotoiti, September 2019

And to mark the 20th anniversary, we’ve just agreed new, ongoing sponsorships of the Native Forest Restoration Trust and Outward Bound NZ.

It’s a privilege to be here still after two decades doing the work we love from a place we love. Ngā manaakitanga ki a koutou kātoa i tautoko I a Oratia i ēnei tau i mua, ā, ka mahi ngatahi tonu ā muri ake nei. Grazie e arrivederci al 2040!

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