Retiring, but not from Gizzy

For nearly 40 years, Trevor Freeman has been at the forefront of the fight to preserve the land in what he describes as the ‘soil erosion capital’ of New Zealand. Speaking to John Jones as he enters his retirement, he says he believes that progress is being made and he will be staying in the district he has come to love.

For nearly 40 years, Trevor Freeman has been at the forefront of the fight to preserve the land in what he describes as the ‘soil erosion capital’ of New Zealand. Speaking to John Jones as he enters his retirement, he says he believes that progress is being made and he will be staying in the district he has come to love.

Trevor Freeman

TREVOR Freeman had never been to Gisborne before he came in 1976 to take a job with the water and soil division of the Ministry of Works.

He remembers lying in bed on a balmy summer’s night, hearing the Town Clock strike, and thinking this was a rather nice place to be.

As he ended a nearly four decades’ long career here — with first the catchment board and then Gisborne District Council, Mr Freeman reminisced for the large gathering at his farewell function that included many people from outside the district.

Born and educated in Christchurch, he graduated from Lincoln College with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and came to Gisborne to join the water and soil division of the Ministry of Works in 1976.

After a short 18-month stint based in Dunedin and working in the Maniototo, he came back here in 1979, working first with the Poverty Bay Catchment Board and later Gisborne District Council.

Mr Freeman has two children: daughter Kimberley who is a planner and son Nicholas who works in IT. Both are living in Hamilton. His wife Robyn passed away 10 years ago.

Mr Freeman was a little taken aback by the people who came to his farewell function, many of them from outside the district.

He kept them more than amused with anecdotes from his long working life, such as tipping off a two-wheel motorbike, feasting off an orange tree at the back of Terrace Station, dispatching a possum in a shearing quarters’ kitchen without a rifle, and standing on a Canadian oil rig in a temperature of minus 22 degrees.

“I’ve stayed so long in this district and never straying far from water, soil and sustainability, not just because Gisborne is a great place to live, but because it is a unique area: it has complex geology and is the soil erosion capital of NZ” he told the Herald.

Never regretted staying

“I’ve never regretted not moving to another council, a government department or into a consultancy.

“There has always been a lot of diversity during my career. There have been new challenges to meet and this council has done so, leading others in a number of key areas.

“It’s been a wonderful experience getting to know our rural hinterland. Much of it through walking up and down the hills into all sorts of places. I’ve travelled much of the country, but the green hills, farms, exotic and indigenous forests of this district without the pressures of a large population and unbridled intensification are truly something special. I used to get laughed at because I would walk the farms during the week and tramp the bush on the weekends.

“Then there have been the people. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the farmers, forest managers, environmental advocates, contractors and rural business people of the district. People of the land, all of them. There have been some real characters amongst them too.”

“Invitations to come in for a cuppa were much appreciated, whether it was from a china cup or pre-used mug; and accompanied by pikelets or cold mutton sandwiches. This was a time when people were most relaxed.

“It has been particularly satisfying seeing attitudes and practices change towards more sustainable use of our natural resources. I’m thinking here of tree planting on erosion-prone land, development of techniques to successfully log forests planted on soft rock country, and protection of high biodiversity areas.”

Sustained support from many

This required sustained support from many people. The conservation division was pretty much entwined with the planning division, and key councillors such as Pat Seymour, and Patrick Willock in earlier times.

“Why am I retiring early? It is my call to do so; it’s something I have always had in the back of my mind,” he said.

“There are a number of reasons. Some are aware I have a health issue. The cramped office space in the new building, (where we are now too for that matter), is not for me.

“But right up there too has to be the fallout from this business transformation process we seem to be stuck in.

Suffice to say, we have lost many good people with wide experience and formidable nous. That comes with a cost to council that also impacts at the personal level. Overall, I guess I want to spend more time on me.

“For 32 years, I had staff responsibilities and set out from the beginning to treat all people as I myself like to be treated. And treat them all the same. It really does come down to this basic principle. I sincerely hope I have been able to assist others to further their own careers. There is lots of talent! “

He left with mixed feelings, no more “must attend” meetings, and no longer having to set a morning alarm.

“But I have received much pleasure and fun from working alongside others, as I have taught them, and they have taught me. I shall miss you all.

“I intend to stay in Gisborne to be close to the hills and coast, to be able to continue to enjoy the magic of knowing so many people in our small community.”

TREVOR Freeman had never been to Gisborne before he came in 1976 to take a job with the water and soil division of the Ministry of Works.

He remembers lying in bed on a balmy summer’s night, hearing the Town Clock strike, and thinking this was a rather nice place to be.

As he ended a nearly four decades’ long career here — with first the catchment board and then Gisborne District Council, Mr Freeman reminisced for the large gathering at his farewell function that included many people from outside the district.

Born and educated in Christchurch, he graduated from Lincoln College with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and came to Gisborne to join the water and soil division of the Ministry of Works in 1976.

After a short 18-month stint based in Dunedin and working in the Maniototo, he came back here in 1979, working first with the Poverty Bay Catchment Board and later Gisborne District Council.

Mr Freeman has two children: daughter Kimberley who is a planner and son Nicholas who works in IT. Both are living in Hamilton. His wife Robyn passed away 10 years ago.

Mr Freeman was a little taken aback by the people who came to his farewell function, many of them from outside the district.

He kept them more than amused with anecdotes from his long working life, such as tipping off a two-wheel motorbike, feasting off an orange tree at the back of Terrace Station, dispatching a possum in a shearing quarters’ kitchen without a rifle, and standing on a Canadian oil rig in a temperature of minus 22 degrees.

“I’ve stayed so long in this district and never straying far from water, soil and sustainability, not just because Gisborne is a great place to live, but because it is a unique area: it has complex geology and is the soil erosion capital of NZ” he told the Herald.

Never regretted staying

“I’ve never regretted not moving to another council, a government department or into a consultancy.

“There has always been a lot of diversity during my career. There have been new challenges to meet and this council has done so, leading others in a number of key areas.

“It’s been a wonderful experience getting to know our rural hinterland. Much of it through walking up and down the hills into all sorts of places. I’ve travelled much of the country, but the green hills, farms, exotic and indigenous forests of this district without the pressures of a large population and unbridled intensification are truly something special. I used to get laughed at because I would walk the farms during the week and tramp the bush on the weekends.

“Then there have been the people. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the farmers, forest managers, environmental advocates, contractors and rural business people of the district. People of the land, all of them. There have been some real characters amongst them too.”

“Invitations to come in for a cuppa were much appreciated, whether it was from a china cup or pre-used mug; and accompanied by pikelets or cold mutton sandwiches. This was a time when people were most relaxed.

“It has been particularly satisfying seeing attitudes and practices change towards more sustainable use of our natural resources. I’m thinking here of tree planting on erosion-prone land, development of techniques to successfully log forests planted on soft rock country, and protection of high biodiversity areas.”

Sustained support from many

This required sustained support from many people. The conservation division was pretty much entwined with the planning division, and key councillors such as Pat Seymour, and Patrick Willock in earlier times.

“Why am I retiring early? It is my call to do so; it’s something I have always had in the back of my mind,” he said.

“There are a number of reasons. Some are aware I have a health issue. The cramped office space in the new building, (where we are now too for that matter), is not for me.

“But right up there too has to be the fallout from this business transformation process we seem to be stuck in.

Suffice to say, we have lost many good people with wide experience and formidable nous. That comes with a cost to council that also impacts at the personal level. Overall, I guess I want to spend more time on me.

“For 32 years, I had staff responsibilities and set out from the beginning to treat all people as I myself like to be treated. And treat them all the same. It really does come down to this basic principle. I sincerely hope I have been able to assist others to further their own careers. There is lots of talent! “

He left with mixed feelings, no more “must attend” meetings, and no longer having to set a morning alarm.

“But I have received much pleasure and fun from working alongside others, as I have taught them, and they have taught me. I shall miss you all.

“I intend to stay in Gisborne to be close to the hills and coast, to be able to continue to enjoy the magic of knowing so many people in our small community.”

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