Career. “With all the experience and knowledge . . . that goes and it’s not easy to replace.”
Works Plus works manager Brian Blake reflects with honesty on the imminent retirement of road maintenance supervisor Neville Bellinger and project supervisor Rodney Beswick, as the trio sit with the Chronicle at the Montagu Road depot one afternoon.
Then, Brian smiles as he says: “I think I’ve looked after them pretty well – they’re going to miss me!”
Laughter rings around the room before Neville fires back with the cheeky response of: “Do you know what the best thing about this (interview) is? We’re on overtime hours now!”
It is this sort of friendly banter that co-workers have thrived on to break up the long hours working onsite, as the outgoing pair recently decided the time was right to finish long-standing careers with the Circular Head Council branch.
Neville, 55, will sign off for the last time on July 17 after almost 40 years with the same employer while Rodney, 61, finishes his 36-year stretch on July 31.
“It was a big decision,” Neville said of retirement. “I suppose [it’s] being young enough and fit enough, and being in a position to do stuff on my own while I can.
“Forty years . . . it’s half your life. You meet a lot of your mates here. I’ve got plenty to do [though], I’ll never get bored.”
Rodney agreed: “I’m a bit in the mind of I’ll do it while I can. Now I want to spend a bit of quality time travelling.”
While the timing of their retirement is coincidentally close, the Works Plus journey has been uniquely different for each.
At 15, Neville – who admits he “absolutely hated school” – took the opportunity to earn some extra money over the Christmas period, working with his father Floyd in parks and reserves.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“I never went back to school after that,” Neville said, staying in a job which provided “security and support” to provide for his young family as the years passed.
For Rodney, placement to the council’s works team came from a Regional Employment Development (RED) scheme when he was 25, having previously worked part-time and at cash-in-hand jobs.
“I drove trucks, graders and loaders, then the supervisor’s job came up 20-odd years ago,” he said. “You became pretty safe in your position, [but] you could virtually go up the ladder as far as you wanted.”
The pair witnessed aspects of the industry grow and others alter over the decades, no more so than the “immense” change in work practices and occupational health and safety.
Before formally becoming Works Plus, Neville described a previous depot at Stanley as the starting point for the day, while the original Smithton depot was where the current SES headquarters are located.
Along with significant road upgrades towards Woolnorth and the construction of bridges across Circular Head, Rodney recalled working in asset management in 1992 when the council began taking ownership of local roads previously maintained by the state government.
“There’s always something that jolts your memory, something that might’ve happened on the job,” Rodney said of revisiting former work sites around the region.
“I get a fair bit of satisfaction out of capital works, when you build new stuff. Your workforce are your biggest asset.”
Through countless days filled with projects, road upgrades, fluoro vests and tools, the pair also fondly remembers workmates they have lost over the years to illness, feeling grateful to have worked under the same employer for so long.
Now, both are looking forward to moments relaxing while spending more time with children and grandchildren, remaining a stone’s throw from each other at West Inlet and Green Hills.
“The both of them have been really great to work with – both have got extensive knowledge in road management and construction,” Brian said.
“What people don’t see is being here after hours, [working] in rain, wind . . . they’re doing their job.”
With more than 75 years of combined works experience departing this month, Circular Head Mayor Daryl Quilliam also took the time to pay tribute to the retiring duo, adding he was proud of Works Plus’ progression since he began sitting on council in 1980.
“The quality of Works Plus over the last 20 years has increased dramatically – the community is far better off for it,” he said.