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“This is like surfing a perfect barrel at Burleigh with everyone watching,” Nev Hyman gasped at the television cameras surrounding him at St James Palace, London, last month.

The innovative surfboard designer turned revolutionary sustainable housing entrepreneur had just won the Duke of York’s global Pitch@Palace Global Entrepreneur of the Year award from 25,000 other submissions. After four years of hard slog his NevHouse project was up and running, the eyes of many of the world’s leading philanthropists now focused on it.

According to business bible Forbes.com, “Since its inception four years ago, Pitch@Palace has helped startup businesses create 1,600 new jobs and generate more than $630 million of new economic activity.”

In March the man known in the surfboard industry as the “genial ginger genius” will bring the NevHouse to the Laguna Real Estate Noosa Festival of Surfing, the first opportunity Australians will have to see the recycled plastic, low cost modular construction that is already saving lives in the developing world. Nev and his team will build a NevHouse in the middle of Festival Village at First Point, where it will serve as the Festival’s media and information centre and be available for inspection every day. At the conclusion of the event, the NevHouse will be dismantled and donated to the Noosa community.

Since he came riding out of the West (Perth) to establish Nev Future Shapes on the Gold Coast more than 30 years ago, Nev Hyman has been a force to be reckoned with in the surfboard industry. Now taking a backseat in surfboard construction, having helped to establish Firewire as the leading global brand in green surfboard design which was then sold to Kelly Slater, Nev is not doing what you’d expect – taking it easy under a palm tree between dreamy surf sessions.

He and his small team have spent the past four years raising capital, doing research and development, and all the travel required to get interest from the different jurisdictions throughout the South Pacific, including delivering 15 homes in Vanuatu in 2016 in the wake of Cyclone Pam. Says Nev: “We’re thinking big scale because we’re not going to be satisfied with just delivering a few houses to a few small communities. Affordable housing shortages are a global problem. A United Nations report suggests that there are more than 250 million homes needed globally.”

(video courtesy TodayTonight)

Nev’s business model is to build a sustainable company through selling NevHouses to commercial concerns so that the ongoing profits can be ploughed back into supplying emergency housing where it is needed most. “We call it philanthro-capitalism,” he says. “And the secret to making it work is to create a product that is attractive, low cost and leaves a minimal footprint on the environment.”

Nev Hyman and his team will be on site at the NevHouse throughout the “8 days of pure stoke” and Nev will be the keynote speaker at a gala dinner at Peppers Noosa on Thursday, March 15.