For the last 37 years, Bruce Easton has played a vital role in keeping the lights on in our region. During this time, he’s had several roles at Eastland Network, which is part of Eastland Group – most recently as business service manager.
Now he’s hanging up his calculator and retiring, after a career that has seen him experience enormous changes in the electricity industry.
After a successful career in banking, Mr Easton joined the Poverty Bay Electric Power Board in 1980.
Back then, the Board offices were in Peel Street. The new 110kV transmission line from Gisborne to Tokomaru Bay was just going live. New Zealand’s electricity generation and transmission were owned and run by the government.
As the finance manager, one of Mr Easton’s responsibilities was the meter reading team.
“It was an exciting area and there was always something happening,” remembers Mr Easton.
“Dangerous dogs, customers doing all sorts of strange and surprising things in their homes, one team member being swept downstream in his Suzuki. But during my 23 years looking after the meter readers, they travelled more than 9,000,000 kilometres with no serious incidents.”
When Mr Easton started at the PBEPB, meter reading information was punched into tape on a specialised Burroughs adding machine, before being sent to Wellington for bills to be processed.
In 1989, he made the bold decision to move to the new Gentrack computer billing system.
“We were the first to adopt the technology, and it’s now used by the majority of lines companies across the country.”
Even bigger changes came in the 1990s, with the deregulation of the retail electricity sector, introduction of the wholesale electricity market, and separation of the lines and energy companies.
Poverty Bay Electric Power Board became Eastland Energy in 1993, and the Eastland Energy Community Trust was formed. In 1998, Contact Energy assumed control of Eastland Energy’s retail energy business. Renamed Eastland Network in 1999, the company relocated to Carnarvon Street.
“I’ve ridden the tides of change in the industry,” says Mr Easton.
“Over the years there’s been plenty of excitement and challenges, as Eastland Group has expanded into the major infrastructure company it is today.
“It’s been very interesting and rewarding to part of a progressive, innovative company. And I’m proud to have worked for a company that puts so much back into the community.”
Brent Stewart, general manager Networks, has worked alongside Mr Easton for 15 years.
“Bruce is a genuine one-off. He’s assumed responsibility for many different areas of the business during the last four decades, always taking care of everything with meticulous attention to detail. This is the end of an era and he will be missed.”
Eastland Group Chief Executive Matt Todd has also paid tribute to one of the company’s longest-serving employees.
“Bruce exemplifies everything that we believe in as a company. He’s dedicated, community-spirited and has always gone above and beyond to make it happen for colleagues and customers alike. I have a huge amount of respect for everything he’s achieved, and on behalf of our staff wish him all the best for a long and enjoyable retirement.”
A well-known local character and bowls player of some repute, Mr Easton has appeared in the Gisborne Herald several times over the years, as well as the book ‘Isolated Lines’ by Sheridan Grundy.
He retires at the end of June. His next project will be overseeing the building of his new house.
Photo: Paul Rickard, The Gisborne Herald