Bange on the Waihi Borough Council 1960 – 1988
In the 28 years, I served under a succession of Mayors, starting off with Chris Christensen who owned and operated a saw mill and timber treatment plant in Waihi.
Chris chaired Council meetings by listening to all Councillors having their say, before opening his mouth. He had the ability to then sum-up a clear consensus.
Following Chris there were Albert Thomas (Waihi Timber and Joinery Co owner), generally more autocratic in his approach; Allan Dean (Private Accountancy firm), generally more relaxed approach, emphasis on economics of operations. Allan's hearing deteriorated to such an extent, he stood down as Mayor, but remained on Council, and finally Owen Morgan; very tenacious and even with no initial support from his Council, never "giving up" in pursuing his own viewpoint.
I also worked with a succession of Town Clerk's, generally considered C.E.O's of Council.
Starting off with Ken Bargh (not necessarily in that order) there were Pat Whelan, Eirov Grabham, Lloyd Leman, Bob Freeman and Richard Penfold.
Generally I had a good working relationship with all of them, except one (Lloyd Leman). Fortunately he only stayed for one year, any longer and a major clash would have erupted between us.
As time went by and the town re-established itself, office staff increased. From a staff of; the Town Clerk (T.C), myself (B.E) and two office girls (Typist and public counter) it grew to 3 office girls, an Assistant T.C, an Engineer's Assistant, a Building and a Health Inspector jointly with the Ohinemuri County.
In 1960 the Borough Council building (now 'The Chambers' restaurant) also housed the Library, run by one Librarian (Rex Bell). Now the Library is housed in what used to be the BNZ building, which Council purchased when the BNZ relocated to its present site, run by the Librarian (Norma Aken) and an assistant.
One of the longer serving Assistant Town Clerks, still there when I retired, was Gary Patterson. I had a very good working relationship with Gary, even more so, after computers were introduced to the office. He was extremely keen to find out what these "tools" could or could not do.
With my "department" or rather me being involved in the major expenditure part of any revenues available to Council, I was intimately involved in the annual estimates, as well as keeping an eye on running expenditure during the year (month by month). This was particularly relevant to Subsidised Works (attracting preset annual Govt Funds) which if overspend did not attract extra Government Funds and if underspend did not allow to claim all the Government Funds allocated.
When the manual accounting system was replaced by computer programme's, the first time I received budget info from Gary, an almost one inch thick computer print out appeared on my desk. I threw up my hands in horror, went back to Gary and said; "All I want is summary figures of the various accounts". Gary replied; "I don't know whether that is possible, but I will try".
Before long Gary discovered, that the computer programme allowed for such a summary to be produced and from then on, the print out I needed and got was only a few pages long.
The above is just a small example of the general cordial and cooperative atmosphere in our office as a whole. In other authorities, often rivalry existed between the administrative and engineering "departments", in turn leading to friction.
A somewhat extreme case occurred in the nearby Thames Borough, where for years the Town Clerk and Borough Engineer, mutually, only communicated by written memos to one another.
Other points worth of record are some of the differences, which existed between urban (Borough's and cities) and rural (counties) Territorial Local Authorities before the reorganisation into cities and Districts in the late 1980's.
First of, Municipal Authorities and Counties had their own separate Annual Conferences. As of right Mayors and Town Clerks attended the former, while County Chairmen, Clerks and Engineers attended the latter.
These conferences were the major annual political forums and representation, as outlined above, was probably one of the reasons, that the Municipal Engineers Institute had less "political clout", than the County Engineers Institute.
A lot of urban authorities, particularly smaller towns, had their meetings in the evenings, while Counties generally had daytime meetings.
"Engineering" wise, Counties work substantially dealt with roading and associated works, while Municipal work encompassed a very wide field of services.
As time went by this difference became less and less pronounced, as urban developments within Counties demanded modern services.
That is enough about "Council", back to "Staff".
After a number of years, Council supported my need for an Engineers Assistant, as I became more and more involved in planning and management.
I had several; Denis Smith who was "head hunted" by Paeroa Borough, Peter Newton who left for greener fields and for the latter years Wojtek Michalek, a registered surveyor who went to Papua New Guinea. He was one of the Polish Refugee children (2nd WW), who were brought to NZ. His hobby was scuba diving, which he enjoyed to the full in the islands around PNG, with a multitude of wartime ship and aircraft wrecks.
Some of the Inspectorate Staff come to mind, Dick Veen, the result of a "pressure-cooker" Health Inspector's Course. He did not last very long (more interested in land speculation). Bob Quantrill a Health Inspector (hard to nail down) still there when I retired, as was Bill Aken, our Building Inspector for many years. (His wife Norma was and is the Librarian in Waihi). He was a conscientious worker, fair and capable.
And finally there were my foremen or overseers. When I started in 1960, it was Wally Bidois, an ex Goldminer, a hard worker who could turn his hand to anything. He was the one who showed me how to fix a "pinhole leak" in the old steel Walmsley Water main. Sharpen a dry Manuka stick and tap it into the hole.
He knew the position of every water pipe and old gas mains in town. After his retirement I had planned to keep him on a small annual retainer, so I could call on his knowledge if and when required. Unfortunately Wally died very shortly after his retirement.
Wally had a small cyst (I think in one of his legs) for years, that he could live with, but after he retired, decided to have surgically removed. All went well, but Wally was not one to sit still for very long. He was a very keen gardener with a large vege plot on his section on Victoria Street. A few days after his small "op" he decided to do some work in his garden where he suddenly collapsed and died – A blood clot!!
Wally's successor was Bill Flutey, with a Contractor's background. He was also good value and still there when I retired.
Before starting on my next "category", just a few reminiscences that come to mind, still dealing with Council and staff.
Initially Councillors were substantially "volunteers", standing for election because of a genuine interest in the community (they received only a nominal meeting allowance). Over the years this gradually changed and after the reorganisation of Local Authorities (just after I retired) Councillors are now drawing an annual remuneration.
Occasionally persons stood for Council, having an "axe to grind". If elected at all, they normally did not last very long (3 year terms). The Waihi Council and Committee meetings (generally one of each monthly), were held in the evenings, allowing ordinary working (wage earning) people to stand for Council.
One such person, I have to single out and mention here, is Mary Williams. She worked at the Akrad Factory, a Councillor for many years, extremely fair and with a lot of "common sense". I had a great deal of respect for her. Another Councillor Doug Saunders, who had to step down from Council because of a conflict of interest, (his firm, Provincial Plumbers tendered for Council contracts) became my lifelong friend.
Right from the beginning of my employment, the last Council meeting of the year (before Christmas) was kept to a minimum, business wise, and following closure of the meeting Councillors, Senior Staff and Press Representatives started to "unwind", and a good time was had by all. Myself and the Town Clerk were usually responsible for seeing to it, that the Council Chambers were tidied up and the building left secure.
I recall that on one of these occasions I finished up driving several Councillors and the Mayor home, each in turn, as they were not capable to drive themselves home. Included in this was also the newspaper reporter of long standing, Helen McCombie who then lived in Grey Street, in the "East End" of town. The next day I heard, that after I had dropped her off at home, she had "walked" back into town to pick up her car (a little Volkswagen) and driven herself home. That was the last time I gave her a lift!!!
The outside staff also had an "end of year do", at the Borough Depot, to which the whole office staff was usually invited and later on wives and partners were also included.
This always included a "hangi", which was hard to beat, put down during the day by some of my workers.
So it was not always "all work and no play" which brings me to my next "category", notes on:-