About us

Mortimer Hirst: Optometrists, Contact Lens Specialists and Dispensing Opticians

Mortimer Hirst has been the practice of choice for the discerning client who desires the very best in Eyecare & Eyewear since 1951.

The original practice is located in the same premises as when it first opened; the fashionable 9 High St, Auckland CBD, with other practices 3 St Heliers Bay Rd, St Heliers, Auckland and 42-44 Hurstmere Road, Takapuna, Auckland.

Mortimer Hirst has earned a solid reputation for providing expert clinical eyecare, specialists in contact lenses and a destination for service and handpicked eyewear collections.

Heritage

The late Douglas (Doug) Mortimer and Eugene (Gene) Hirst formed the partnership and with their individual expertise, proved to be very unique in the world of optometry.

In 1943 Gene Hirst accepted, with great success, a challenge made by an Auckland ophthalmologist to manufacture the first contact lenses in New Zealand for a keratoconic patient. An impression of the eye was taken by using dental material and moulding a lens over a stone cast. There were no lathes available at the time so the optics were fashioned by hand using small brass laps.

In partnership with optometrist Doug Mortimer he started Hirst Contact Lens in 1943 and the optometric practice Mortimer Hirst in 1951. Gene taught many opticians how to fit contact lenses and travelled globally, lecturing and teaching contact lens design and practice. In 1967 he began manufacturing contact lenses, in 1970 the company expanded with a branch in Adelaide, Australia. The Australian company was sold a few years later to Hydron USA and in 1976 Hirst Contact Lens was sold to New Zealand Optical and renamed Hirstlens.

Hence Mortimer Hirst has been instrumental in the development, manufacturing and fitting of contact lenses in New Zealand, manufacturing both hard and soft contact lenses onsite, with the manufacturing laboratory occupying three floors of the High Street building until 1978.

Mortimer Hirst opened a branch practice in Mt Roskill in 1967 and subsequently sold it 10 years later. Dispensing optician Pat Martin was employed by Mortimer Hirst in 1973 and was joined by optometrist Victoria Elias in 1979. Victoria became a partner in the practice when Doug Mortimer retired in 1982. When Gene Hirst retired in 1985, Pat became business partners with Victoria.

In 1980 Mortimer Hirst opened a branch practice in St Heliers. Optometrist and Contact Lens Specialist Grant Watters (grantwatters.co.nz) joined the St Heliers branch practice in 1993 and purchased the practice in 1995; Dispensing Optician Naomi Bicheno joined the practice in 2001 and in 2004 became a partner. The practice was sold in 2007 whilst they expanded their individual areas of expertise.

Grant and Naomi became partners at Mortimer Hirst in 2009; whilst both Pat and Victoria continued to work part time, easing into retirement. Pat retired in 2010 after 37 years and Victoria retired in 2011 after 32 years with the practice.

In 2010 Optometrist Varny Ganesalingam (varnyganesalingam.co.nz) joined Mortimer Hirst and Grant and Naomi purchased St Heliers Bay Optical and rebranded it to Mortimer Hirst, re-establishing the Mortimer Hirst brand back in St Heliers.

In early 2011 Optometrist and Contact Lens Specialist Alan Saks joined the clinical team, in early 2012 Optometrist and Contact Lens Specialist Kerry Atkinson (kerryatkinson.co.nz) joined the clinical team and in early 2015 Optometrist Emilie Langley (emilielangley.co.nz) joined the clinical team.

In December 2015 Mortimer Hirst purchased Davy & Associates in Takapuna, a well-respected, independent practice that specialised in contact lenses. The previous owner Martyn Davy said his career had come full circle after he began his career working for Doug Mortimer and Gene Hirst in 1975. Martyn worked for Mortimer Hirst and then Hirst Contact Lenses for more than ten years before establishing Davy and Associates on Hurstmere Road, Takapuna in 1998.

In early 2016 Optometrist and Contact Lens Specialist Aki Gokul (akigokul.co.nz) joined the Mortimer Hirst clinical team. Later in the year Optometrist and Contact Lens Specialist Alan Saks retired from practising optometry.

The select clinical team continue Mortimer Hirst’s specialised contact lens business as well as expanding their own areas of expertise in complex contact lens fitting and management, clinical troubleshooting on referral, pre-market evaluations and clinical trials for leading manufacturers including Rose K. They continue to lecture nationally and internationally.

Grant and Kerry continue to work with the Auckland University Department of Optometry and Vision Science (DOVS). Grant conducts research, continuing education and is an examiner for final year students. Kerry teaches, lectures and runs a Contact Lens clinic for final year optometry students. Mortimer Hirst is currently the only practice in New Zealand chosen for a clinical research outreach programme for final year optometry students and for the recently established Clinical Master of Science in Optometry degree in contact lenses by DOVS.

Mortimer Hirst has gained a solid reputation for providing expert clinical care and advice and continues the tradition of being a leading independent practice in New Zealand specialising in clinical eye care, contact lenses and handpicked eyewear collections.

To this day Mortimer Hirst maintains an onsite contact lens laboratory, to modify, re-power and polish rigid gas permeable contact lenses, an eyewear laboratory for repairs or replacement of prescription lenses and an extensive in-house stock of contact lenses.

Mortimer Hirst continues to successfully blend world-class eye care with the very latest fashion eyewear.