Thursday 14 January 2016

Working, boss ...

Well, despite my best intentions, I am once again in full-time, if necessarily short-term, employment! Necessarily short-term because on May 19 we are flying to the UK for our next season on nb Waka Huia.

I am doing a project management assignment which is based on the West Coast of the South Island - a beautiful part of the country, but quite different from the probably better known Queenstown,  and Doubtful and Milford Sounds. In fact the West Coast is quite similar to the northern parts of Taranaki - same geological features, same flora - just a lot more isolated and travel in by air is more frequently affected by weather. It's the Southern Alps which stop the water-laden westerly wind and cause the rain to fall on the seaward side of them that in turn create a micro climate of high rainfall, lush bush growth, and quite changeable weather. But by heck, it is very beautiful in a rugged kind of way.

My new project is managing the remediation of a former gold mining site - it was state of the art in gold mining terms at the time it was active back in the 1930s to 50s, but not so clever on keeping the ecology of the site in good shape. The West Coast was a huge mining area - coal, gold - and a huge number of NZers can claim a forebear who was involved in gold mining - indeed David can, as his great great grandfather came out from Scotland as a 16 year old, walked down from Auckland, crossed Cook Strait and walked to the West Coast to mine for gold, and then walked (I am unsure by what route) to Dunedin and then up to Akaroa where he took on two 40 acre blocks at Wainui. The loveliest part of this story is that the young woman he'd been forcibly parted from at 16 (the catholic/protestant divide) had waited for him and he sent for her - she arrived with her now widowed father and they founded the family here in NZ.

So here I am in Hokitika, and will be here regularly until we head off to the UK. I will be working partly here and partly at home and my role is to keep the project on track time-wise and budget-wise. There is a whole range of extremely competent engineers, scientists and Dept of Conservation rangers who certainly don't need more expertise in their fields, but my job is to make sure the job gets done through them, using their expertise while taking the extraneous project management/reporting to governance stuff off their shoulders.

This morning I was picked up at 6am and driven up to the site of the goldmine. Health and safety is understandably a big deal here so I was equipped with all the PPE (personal protective equipment): helmet with ear-muffs, safety glasses, steel capped boots (I bought my own as I probably have the smallest pair of feet down here), full length trousers and long sleeved top, plus a little survival kit with water, food, wet wipes.

On site wearing the helmet and earmuffs, my new steel-capped boots (very Village People) and colleague Cameron's high-vis vest. I tried not to make dents in the front of it ...
The drive out to the mine was quite long and through beautiful countryside and on the way we passed the turn off to Reefton.
This one is for Gary.

On the way back I had to have a photo taken at Melita's former home town ...

The mine site was pretty interesting and the most amazing views can be seen from it. DOC already has a few information boards in place and seeing old photos of men having their lunch 800 metres underground and others going underground in the man-cage was just a bit spooky to me! There was some drilling going on today checking for groundwater and some water sampling from nearby streams was due to take place - it's all very carefully done with GPS readings at sample sites. All of the data that has been and is being collected is being plotted on a big map and will be used to inform decision making on how the site will be remediated.

It's exciting stuff!

This evening after a governance group meeting in the afternoon, a very late lunch, and a meeting with the very clever man who does the mapping, I flew home - over the Southern Alps in a small two engined plane to Christchurch (wish I had kept my phone turned on in airplane mode and taken photos of the peaks - next time!) and then a larger plane back to Wellington. Cab to the station, and caught the train to Waikanae by the skin of my teeth, and my friend Wendy picked me up and kindly drove me home. It's now 10.45pm and I am tired, in bed with a cup of chamomile tea.

This sign was outside a lovely wine bar in Hokitika that Kevin and I went to on Tuesday.


Les Biggs said...

You do look the part in your work gear.

Carol said...

Good luck in your new employment, looks very interesting. x

Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

Hi Les and Jaq, I only wear that stuff when up at the mine and I don't have to go there often - in the office it is business gear for me, but almost everyone else dresses very very casually - and a number of them have their kayaks and surfboards at work ready for a quick dip at lunchtime or when the tide and wind are right.

Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

Thanks, Carol - it is a really interesting piece of work and a great stretch of countryside - so isolated! It will keep me very busy till we are back on-board Waka Huia. I'll need a good long lie down to recover ... Mx

Jenny said...

Wow, that's a change from bathroom renovations, and narrow-boating! Hope we have time to catch up, now that you are a working girl.
Robin and Jenny, Romany Rambler

Jo Jones said...

Great family history in that story Maz, keep up the great work and I'm sure KB will enjoy your company in the wild south!

Jo Jones said...
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Lisa said...

Yoooo Hooooo,
We visited Hokitika last year on visiting NZ for our daughter's wedding in Hamiliton. I am now reading The Luminaries, have you? There are about a million mens names to be learnt but I am keeping track with a notebook next to me. I really liked Hokitika, esp the Fish & Chips at the end of the quay!
See you in May, we are off norff mid April.
Lisa Carr
NB What a Lark

Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

Hi Lisa, Hokitika is a cool little place, isn't it? I haven't tried the fish and chips yet, but had dinner at Fat Pipi's Pizza the other night - very yummy.
I have The Luminaries on my kindle but haven't read it yet. Now I am working down there I will have to get on to it. Your idea re making a list of the names seems like a good one to emulate.
Looking forward to meeting you when we get back to the UK!
Cheers, Marilyn

Dave Ward said...

"That in turn creates a micro climate of high rainfall"

I spent a night in Franz Josef when I was holidaying in NZ back in 1996. I was told that the area typically gets 24 FEET of rain per year! I guess that about 1 foot of this amount fell on the corrugated tin roof of the motel... I didn't get much sleep!

Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

It sure can be a rainy place down here on the coast, but this summer has been very hot and dry in comparison to some. It is beautiful, I would have to say. It's a great place to be working - people with commitment and a project that is worth doing in a lovely setting.