When Boss Blackbee’s Ruatoria-based civil contracting company won a Gisborne District Council roading maintenance contract this year, he was euphoric.
“In all my years in roading, I’ve never known a tier 3 company to hold a contract like that on the Coast.”
In Tairawhiti, it’s more likely for tier 3 companies to work as sub-contractors rather than having a direct commercial relationship with a client. But that distinction isn’t the only reason Blackbee (Ngati Porou, Te Whanau a Tuwhakairiora,) was thrilled to win the contract.
“I wanted it so I could provide employment for our people on the Coast,” says Blackbee. “It’s simply not the case that there’s no work here. All my staff are local, and they do a range of jobs.”
Blackbee left school when he was 14 and joined the roading industry. Now 32, he currently employs 17 staff, many whom have their own whanau. They work in traffic management, machine operation, and administration. “I’ve taken two guys straight out of school. Another one of my guys can now drive diggers, trucks, and bulldozers. He’s become one of our main transport drivers and he’s only 30.”
H Blackbee Contractors works mainly for Waka Kotahi NZ and Gisborne District Council. But Blackbee also does smaller jobs for forestry sector companies such as Ngati Porou Forests and Aratu Forests.
He’s a staunch supporter of forestry and Eastland Port, and says “without each other, we can’t all thrive.”
“I think creating a skilled workforce close to home creates good outcomes for the community, economy, and wider region,” says Blackbee.
“Be it roading or forestry if it brings more opportunity for work and workers in Tairawhiti then it’s all good. That’s what ‘by local for local’ means to me.”
He adds that Eastland Port’s wharf developments will enable a more consistent flow of logs over the wharf.
“And that will mean forestry crews don’t have to stop for two or three weeks at a time just because they can’t load more than one ship at a time.
“For the logging boys, the Twin Berth developments are good, less stop-start, keep it consistent.”
In March 2022 H Blackbee Contractors hit national headlines when its staff, alongside engineers and other contractors, worked around the clock to repair Tokomaru Bridge after it was severed by storms. During those long days and nights, Blackbee was reminded that everything happens as a result of things that you’ve done in the past.
“Talk about the trickle-down effect. The support from the community was overwhelming and that’s what drove us. We were out there working until midnight and when we got out of our machines they would feed us frybread, roasts, and hot chocolate.”