Sunday, May 19, 2024

A collective century of council service

When Pita King and Neil Johnstone started at Wellington City Council, they had no idea they would still be working for Council half a century later – a collective 95 years in the organisation.

Senior Transport Engineer Planning, Mr Johnstone, has been with Wellington City Council for an incredibly impressive 50 years – since 1974. Fellow staff member, Contract Manager Cleaning and Growth, Mr King, has been with the Council for 45 years, starting his Council journey in 1979.  

What was your first role at the Council and when did you start? 
Neil: I was about to head off to university on a cadetship and was sponsored by the Council to complete my civil engineering degree, as civil engineers were in high demand at the time. I started as a graduate in 1974.  

Pita: I started off in the roading team and was based out in Maranui. The year was 1979! 

What were your first impressions of the Council as a new staff member? 
Neil: I worked in the street works section of Council, which was a very small drop in the bucket when you considered the scale of organisation at that time. The Council used to own and run a heap of things, including the milk department, the abattoir, and the municipal electricity department (now Wellington Electricity Limited). It felt like an enormous organisation with a huge array of responsibilities.  

Pita: My first impressions were like Neil’s. Coming from Rotorua, where I’d been working in one of the sawmills, the Council felt huge. I remember there was such a large fleet of vehicles. Roading had three yards: Chaffers Street, Maranui at Lyall bay and Johnsonville.  

Two men sitting at a desk.
A young Neil, pictured in 1979 on the far right, discussing roading options with colleagues in the Council’s Roading Design Office. Photo credit: Neil Johnstone.

Can you tell us how you transitioned from this first job to your current roles? 
Neil: I started off working in roading design, focusing on intersection improvements, designing and constructing retaining walls, and structural design work. I worked on the overhead gantry system for signage on the Hutt Road. Before the motorway was built, all traffic from the Hutt and Porirua came into town via the Hutt Road. We operated a lane traffic system, switching between two lanes in and three lanes out based on whether traffic was entering or departing the city.  

I then shifted to have more of a civil engineering focus on drainage, roading and traffic. I also did a bit of consent work for those who were impacted by the roading network. Now I’m heavily involved in ‘standards and procedures’ style work, providing consenting advice to property owners, property developers and Waka Kotahi on maintenance boundaries. This was a small part of what we used to do at Council, now it’s a big part of the work programme.  

Pita: I started off working in construction, which was much more hands on compared to what I do now because the Council was delivering the construction. Now we manage contractors. My job as Contracts Manager is to advise and oversee contractors’ mahi and make sure everything’s up to scratch – helpful when I used to do their job! They can’t pull the wool over my eyes.  

What’s kept you at the Council all these years?  
Neil: I didn’t expect to stay with the Council this long. I wanted to work on high-rise buildings and the like, but I felt content in my work. I was offered interesting roles and never looked back. Serving the public is really the key focus – it’s very fulfilling.  

Pita: He tangata, the people! The rangatira like Neil! That’s what’s kept me here. I like going out and meeting people on site, engaging with the public and trying to solve problems. Someone’s property might have flooded for instance and maybe it’s not your job, but you help them because you’re here to serve your community. It’s very satisfying.  

Find out about job vacancies, employee benefits, and what it’s like working for Wellington on our careers webpage.

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