Robbie MawCalling time on his career as a mechanic that spans nearly 50 years, Smallbones mechanic Robbie Maw. Photo Sue NewmanFor more than 40 years Robbie Maw has made a living fixing big motors; from Monday he’ll be trading down and turning his mechanical skills to fixing some of the smallest motors around.

The long serving Smallbones Isuzu mechanic signed off yesterday after 42 years with that company and almost 50 years in the industry; on Monday he starts a new job, fixing sewing machines in wife Rachel’s quilting shop.

Robbie did his time with Mid Canterbury Transport, leaving school and picking up a mechanics’ apprenticeship.

Eight years later he headed overseas and on his return home saw a job opportunity at Smallbones.

He applied, won the job and suddenly 42 years have been logged, he said.

In all of those years, Robbie said he’s never regretted signing on with the company – great vehicles, great workmates and a great company to work for, he said.

In the early days TK and J1 Bedford trucks were his speciality.

That was in the day when mechanics were a one-man team – from diagnosis to fixing the problem.

“Today it’s all quite different, totally different, now you have to be good with computers and electronics.

“The computers help with the diagnosis but you still need the knowledge to fix the problem,” he said.

Because Smallbones has always held a new vehicle franchise, apart from elderly farm trucks, most of the vehicles through the workshop were relatively modern, Robbie said.

As a trade, being a mechanic takes a lot of beating, he said, but for too long the trades in general fell out of favour in schools and that is still showing up in the small numbers of school leavers wanting to sign on.

The scarcity of qualified mechanics sees many companies forced to bring in qualified staff from overseas.

He looks back fondly on the days of the big engine Holden Kingswoods and Belmonts, but says that unlike many mechanics, he’s never really been a car enthusiast.

Over the years he’s always been too busy with other commitments, to be an after hours tinkerer.

In saying that, Robbie said, he has a 36 Chev stored away in pieces in the garage waiting for the day when he has time to restore it.

“It’s pretty rough at the moment.

“I’ve had it for 20 odd years and rebuilding it keeps getting put back,” he said.

He’s been a volunteer firefighter for 35 years and said that job takes a fair slice of time, particularly when competition work is involved.

It’s time he willingly gives.

“It becomes a big part of your life.”

His later years in the workshop have been spent largely on Certificate of Fitness work with big trucks.

He says he’d always promised himself he’d retire the first winter after he turned 65.

There has to be a point where you call time on spending your working day in a chilly workshop, he said.

There are few on the workshop floor with his years of service, but remembers director Bob Grant was already on staff when he joined – as the office junior.

Come Monday morning Robbie will turn up for work at Annie’s Country Quilts and will learn the intricacies of fixing sewing machines.

He hopes his wife will put him on the payroll; if not, he’s anticipating a bit of pocket money might come his way.

And, he admits, he won’t be severing all ties with Smallbones.

When he signed off as a full time employee, he signed on as a casual.

“If they get stuck, I’ll come back and help out.”

By Sue Newman © The Ashburton Guardian - 1 July 2017

Kate KircherRachel Currie, (left), from the Foundation for Arable Research and Kate Kircher are off to the Innovation Generation conference in Adelaide. Photo Colin WilliscroftAshburton arable specialist Kate Kircher is heading to Australia to explore how farming can put its best foot forward in a virtual world.

Kircher, who works for Carrfields, is attending the Innovation Generation conference in Adelaide, which begins on Monday.

She will be with an Arable Ys group of about 14 that also includes Foundation of Arable Research staff.

The theme of the annual conference is Telling the Ag Story in a Digital Age, and speakers at the event, aimed at 18-to-35 year olds in the grain growing industry, include those who already have a digital footprint to those who can explain how to make that footprint more visible in the future.

Topics include keeping track of agricultural data; utilising social media; challenges around the agritech revolution; and roadblocks to agricultural innovation.

Other sessions include one on how consumer trends are driving consumption in grains and another on understanding consumer attitudes to food production.

For Kircher, it’s a great opportunity to get the lay of the land involving some of the latest technology applicable to the industry and to meet some of the different people involved.

She has not attended the conference before but has spoken to some who have, so is expecting to hear plenty of cutting-edge ideas from innovative people.

One of the highlights for her will be meeting Australian arable specialists and discussing parallels between the industries in the two countries.

Following the conference, the New Zealand group will spend the rest of the week on a post-conference tour, visiting farms and the Pure Grain storage and packing facility on Kangaroo Island, before a visit to the Hart field site north of Adelaide, where the group will find out more about arable research being undertaken there.

Kircher said she is expecting to gain more insights during those visits that she can bring back to New Zealand.

By Colin Williscroft © The Ashburton Guardian - 1 July 2017

basketball juniorJunior A Girls Basketball Back L-R: Samantha Tuck, Poppy Kilworth, Eilish Pearce, Cathleen Anderson. Front row L-R: Annabel Dolan, Mia Pearson, Eimear Gray, Jazmin Strawbridge, Hayley Tallentire. Photo supplied.All three Ashburton College junior basketball teams competed in the Aoraki Secondary Schools' Junior Championships this week, with the boys' teams in Ashburton on Wednesday and the girls' team in Timaru on Thursday.

At the boys' tournament, the Junior A team finished top of their pool and won their semi-final to earn entry into the A final against a sizeable Waitaki Boys.

The boys battled throughout, but struggled to overcome Waitaki's pace and strength, going down 32-12 for second place.

The JuniorB team fought hard all day picking up wins against Roncalli B in pool play and Roncalli A in the crossovers, finishing the day in sixth place.

The junior girls had a dominant tournament in Timaru, outscoring most of their opponents by 30 or more points.

In round robin play, the girls defeated Craighead, Roncalli A, St. Kevin's, Timaru Girls' 9A, Timaru Girls' 10A and Waitaki Girls'.

Waitaki went the closest, with the College girls taking a 42- 17 win and the overall tournament championship trophy.

© The Ashburton Guardian - 1 July 2017