Useful 'fossils'

Retirement was driving Tony Harvie nuts, so he came up with an ingenious idea to put to good use all the skills he and his mates had acquired over the years.

Retirement was driving Tony Harvie nuts, so he came up with an ingenious idea to put to good use all the skills he and his mates had acquired over the years.

THE TEAM: The Hire a Has-Been team (from left) Garth Ritchie, Dan Higgins, Alby Macfarlane, Murray Ferris, Grant Allen and Tony Harvie standing on a deck they constructed.
A dovecote built by the ‘Has-Beens.’
An aviary constructed by the ‘Has-Beens.’

WE CAN'T all be dab hands at DIY. So if DIY is not in your DNA, there’s a team of resourceful and versatile Gizzy-ites you can call on to help you out. They call themselves ‘Hire a Has-Been’, a bunch of enterprising men and women who have dipped their toes in the retirement water and decided it is not for them.

Led by former farm manager Tony Harvie, 78, the group has an astounding range of skills to offer and will tackle any job from fitting a new lock and trimming a door if you have recarpeted to building a substantial deck . . . or sheep yards, if that’s what you need.

“We come from a wide range of backgrounds and can tackle all types of jobs including building fences, pergolas, decks, cupboards and steps; repairing walls, doors and windows; laying floors; erecting spouting; chainsaw work; roading; concrete work including building paths; plumbing, water reticulation and drainage; fixing storm damage; water blasting; doing general section maintenance, weed spraying and gardening . . . the list goes on,” says Tony.

During his nearly 30 years as manager of Rangitira Station at Te Karaka, Tony completely rebuilt the infrastructure on the farm from roading and reticulation to new covered yards, woolshed and loading races so he’s had plenty of experience.

“Farming was consistently physically demanding so when I moved to town, the so-called luxury of retirement did not appeal to me at all.

“I’ve never been able to sit still so the lack of activity drove me nuts — and I missed having a purpose to my day.”

Having done a stint in real estate followed by lawn mowing, gardening and two hip replacements, Tony took stock of life.

“I saw many of my ex-farming mates declining physically and sometimes mentally. The thought of all the skills learned on the farm going to waste prompted me to set up a group of ‘Has-Beens’, men and women wanting and needing a reason to get up in the morning, and do something constructive and rewarding.”

Making a name for themselves

That was five years ago and the team of three permanent and seven casual handymen and women have made quite a name for themselves as mature, responsible, practical, personable, considerate and highly versatile workers.

“We think laterally when confronting unusual problems,” says Tony.

“And being a team, we pick the right person for the job, and swap ideas and gear if needed.

“We try to turn nothing down, no matter how big or small. If we haven’t got the qualifications, expertise or practical ability to do a job, we find the appropriate provider who can help the client. This, in itself, is satisfying, maybe not financially, but it’s rewarding and fills a need.

“We never stop learning, keeping up with modern materials and regulations, not to mention technology and software. It’s a big ask for many ex-cockies, but we do it.”

So why do people hire a ‘Has-Been?’ I asked.

“Large professional operators are not interested in the small projects we undertake. But for us older retired, pensioned ‘fossils,’ it is totally stimulating and rewarding. We respond quickly and have the job done in no time.” The business of providing home maintenance has unlimited potential for growth, says Tony who is even considering setting up a national franchise.

He’s also involved in handyman work for property management companies, child care centres and kohanga reo.

“As the business grows, we will take on more staff and consider partnerships.”

At 78, Tony is as busy as ever and far from retired . . . but he loves it.

He works five to six days a week and as chief ‘Has-Been,’ he also fields incoming calls, quotes, organises, inspects jobs and does the paper work, accounts and administration.

“We meet some interesting people and have a few laughs along the way . . . like the day we were putting a new floor in a wash house. It was so low to the ground, I couldn’t get under it so I sent my skinny mate down there. When he emerged, he had the skeleton of a cat stuck to his back. He didn’t know it was there and I didn’t tell him so he was wandering around with a dead cat on his back for a while,” he says. So is there a downside?

“Probably the most difficult part of the job is keeping a straight face while repairing some of our clients’ DIY projects,” he says with a chuckle.

“And unfortunately, ‘Has-Beens’ tend to suffer from ‘natural attrition’ so our staff turnover is quite high. It’s sad when we lose a team member.”

WE CAN'T all be dab hands at DIY. So if DIY is not in your DNA, there’s a team of resourceful and versatile Gizzy-ites you can call on to help you out. They call themselves ‘Hire a Has-Been’, a bunch of enterprising men and women who have dipped their toes in the retirement water and decided it is not for them.

Led by former farm manager Tony Harvie, 78, the group has an astounding range of skills to offer and will tackle any job from fitting a new lock and trimming a door if you have recarpeted to building a substantial deck . . . or sheep yards, if that’s what you need.

“We come from a wide range of backgrounds and can tackle all types of jobs including building fences, pergolas, decks, cupboards and steps; repairing walls, doors and windows; laying floors; erecting spouting; chainsaw work; roading; concrete work including building paths; plumbing, water reticulation and drainage; fixing storm damage; water blasting; doing general section maintenance, weed spraying and gardening . . . the list goes on,” says Tony.

During his nearly 30 years as manager of Rangitira Station at Te Karaka, Tony completely rebuilt the infrastructure on the farm from roading and reticulation to new covered yards, woolshed and loading races so he’s had plenty of experience.

“Farming was consistently physically demanding so when I moved to town, the so-called luxury of retirement did not appeal to me at all.

“I’ve never been able to sit still so the lack of activity drove me nuts — and I missed having a purpose to my day.”

Having done a stint in real estate followed by lawn mowing, gardening and two hip replacements, Tony took stock of life.

“I saw many of my ex-farming mates declining physically and sometimes mentally. The thought of all the skills learned on the farm going to waste prompted me to set up a group of ‘Has-Beens’, men and women wanting and needing a reason to get up in the morning, and do something constructive and rewarding.”

Making a name for themselves

That was five years ago and the team of three permanent and seven casual handymen and women have made quite a name for themselves as mature, responsible, practical, personable, considerate and highly versatile workers.

“We think laterally when confronting unusual problems,” says Tony.

“And being a team, we pick the right person for the job, and swap ideas and gear if needed.

“We try to turn nothing down, no matter how big or small. If we haven’t got the qualifications, expertise or practical ability to do a job, we find the appropriate provider who can help the client. This, in itself, is satisfying, maybe not financially, but it’s rewarding and fills a need.

“We never stop learning, keeping up with modern materials and regulations, not to mention technology and software. It’s a big ask for many ex-cockies, but we do it.”

So why do people hire a ‘Has-Been?’ I asked.

“Large professional operators are not interested in the small projects we undertake. But for us older retired, pensioned ‘fossils,’ it is totally stimulating and rewarding. We respond quickly and have the job done in no time.” The business of providing home maintenance has unlimited potential for growth, says Tony who is even considering setting up a national franchise.

He’s also involved in handyman work for property management companies, child care centres and kohanga reo.

“As the business grows, we will take on more staff and consider partnerships.”

At 78, Tony is as busy as ever and far from retired . . . but he loves it.

He works five to six days a week and as chief ‘Has-Been,’ he also fields incoming calls, quotes, organises, inspects jobs and does the paper work, accounts and administration.

“We meet some interesting people and have a few laughs along the way . . . like the day we were putting a new floor in a wash house. It was so low to the ground, I couldn’t get under it so I sent my skinny mate down there. When he emerged, he had the skeleton of a cat stuck to his back. He didn’t know it was there and I didn’t tell him so he was wandering around with a dead cat on his back for a while,” he says. So is there a downside?

“Probably the most difficult part of the job is keeping a straight face while repairing some of our clients’ DIY projects,” he says with a chuckle.

“And unfortunately, ‘Has-Beens’ tend to suffer from ‘natural attrition’ so our staff turnover is quite high. It’s sad when we lose a team member.”

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Doug Curtis - 6 months ago
Great to see you young guys are keeping yourselves busy - beats the hell out of just sitting watching TV. I have the day off from dwanging, strapping and nailing ply weatherboard an a family building so fill in the day doing my own housework chores and fill in the night's doing drawings and write-ups for your Herald. Plus I am still playing the bum notes in the 7th Bat Military band, so that fills in Wednesday evening.
Good to see you in that team Murray Ferris - now I know who organises the food and cups of tea. Cheers and keep those bodies moving.

Doug Curtis

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