“ I’ll be the first person in my family to own a house ”
As we approached the Legend John Young was telling me about the crew on board. He said he met Johnny through a family member and what struck him was how much potential he had: “Johnny’s a hard worker, you know? You ask him to do something and it’s done; right there and then. And done properly too; no mucking about.” Johnny started working at Clearwater Mussels at the beginning of November 2013. In the first five months of employment Johnny earned, in wages only, 20-25% above the mean income for Marlborough. With all cash benefits calculated, Johnny earned approximately 45-50% above the media income for Marlborough. I interviewed Johnny late in March, one to one, to get his views on his role at Clearwater Mussels and on his future.
Johnny Arbuckle, 21, Crewman on the Sounds Legend:
I was born in Marlborough, but I grew up in Nelson and then I moved back here about four years ago. I met John Young through my girlfriend. I’d been working at the meat works for nine months of the year, and switching to forestry for three months when the season at the works ended. In some ways it was good money, but then things started to slow down at the meat works and we got to the stage where we were always broke. I’ve always worked hard, you know, but you can’t do anything, like buy a house, when you do that kind of work—I mean it’s not stable.
So then my girlfriend introduced me to John and he said to come and have a look at working for Clearwater. I wasn’t keen at first because I’d never worked away from home before. I do four days on (overnight on the boat) and three days off, and I’d heard it was long hours and hard work. But, I decided to try it because we were so sick of being broke and going from one seasonal job to another. I thought “stuff it” I’ll give it a go. Now, I work on the Sounds Legend—the only time I’ve worked on another boat, the Pelorus Image, was when the Legend had engine trouble (a cracked head) and was out of action for three weeks.
The main work I do on the Legend is seeding the mussel farms. We strip about 30 tonne of spat a day, and we seed the farms with it. There’s other work we do that is mostly around the maintenance of the Legend … we do all the maintenance ourselves … things like oil changes, cleaning down the engine room, we fix a few things here and there. There’s always heaps of work and if I’ve got something I need extra money for I just let John and Tim (the Skipper) know and they’ll make sure there’s a bit of overtime for me. That’s something I really like, that there’s always plenty of work; it’s stable.
At the start I really thought I’d hate being away from home, and it’s not like I like being away. It’s more that I like the life on the Legend, I like being there too. I really like that we are in a different place almost every day, in a way every day is different. It’s awesome on the Legend, and I love being out in the Sounds. There’s three of us on there – me, Jimmy and Tim who’s the Skipper. Even though Tim is my boss we’re all good mates, if someone needs a hand with something we just say. We do stuff together, not just work together. Like, I’ll give him a hand to chop firewood at home, or we’ll all head over to Picton together to go fishing on our days off.
That’s a really important part of it for me. I mean, when you work with people in a normal job you’re stuck with them eight hours a day but here you actually live with them part of the time. We get on so well though that it’s a lot more fun than other places I’ve worked. I mean, before I started there I was always working but I did get into a bit of trouble. It’s different now because, to be honest, I just love being out there, it’s like a family out on the boats, but I get to do all the things I never got to do with my family … we never had boats, we never went fishing, or worked on engines together; I had no idea I’d like it so much … but it’s awesome.
I don’t think people really know what it’s like to work on the mussel boats. When I told my friends I’d decided to give it a go they were like, oh its hard work and long days. But actually you’re not just slugging away all the time, we go from place to place so there’s the travel time, learning to drive the boat, we sleep on the boat, we work hard but it’s not just the same thing day after day. We don’t work 24/7. It’s not what everyone wants to do, but I love the work and being on the Legend; the guys I work with are great. And it’s great that John’s giving young people a chance—I really like that.
A lot of jobs only take people with experience, they won’t give you the opportunity; but Clearwater does—young or older, you get a chance. For me, I’ve been working since I was 13, slugging my guts out in kitchens for long shifts for stuff all money, the meat works, forestry, painting boats … but I’d never worked in mussel farming before. And Jimmy (crewmate) got a job here straight out of school. The fact that they’re giving people chances is important to me. And Tim puts so much faith in us … he trusts us over big stuff, you know? He doesn’t treat you like you’re six years old. He’ll say to me if you know a better way there’s no such thing as a stupid idea, just put it out there and we’ll try it. That’s really good. It gives you heaps more confidence when people are not treating you like you’re an idiot.
That’s another thing I like about working here, it’s given me confidence. John’s already told me I’m doing really well and they’re going to support me to get my Skipper’s ticket next winter. That’s where I can see myself in the future, as a Skipper. That’s really worth doing. With that behind me I can also do a bit of travel, because you can work so many places with a qualification like that. I’ve just got engaged too, in January, and now that I’ve got good work I’d like to look at buying a house in a couple of years. I’ll be the first person in my family to own a house. I trust John because he’s always got plenty of work, and you need that … imagine losing your job and losing your house. I know there’ll be good work and that if I need some extra work it will be there. It’s that stability.
The missus is over the moon that I’m working here. I’m happier and I work hard so I’m knackered at the end of the week so I don’t get into any mischief (laughs). We live in Blenheim and she drops me off for work, and then picks me up when the four days are up. Then I get three days at home, it’s a good balance. What’s really great for me is that, where a lot of people get to Sunday night and think “oh shit, its Monday tomorrow” and get all depressed … I’m not like that anymore. I think “awesome, work”! I can be who I want to be out there, I’m treated like I’ve got a brain, I meet heaps of people, got good mates, and I get to do things I just never thought I would. It’s nothing like the stories about the fishing boats that are out for six weeks. I’d like to invest in some mussel lines one day, I’d love to have my own boat—it’s just awesome out there. I didn’t think I’d love it, but I do.
Johnny has always worked to gain qualifications in his previous jobs, for example, he has qualifications as a Chef, City and Guilds Level 3 and has a Confined Space JLG Licence (for painting and sandblasting). Clearwater Mussels plans to support his Skipper’s ticket, as well as training in the operation of forklifts and cranes. John is clear about the commitment staff must show to advance their careers. “Johnny could be a Skipper one day, possibly even management. He works hard, he learns fast and he’s great to work with. That’s what’ll take him forward. He just needed the opportunity.” Johnny has a quality job – good money, stability and career development and a great future.
Case studies prepared by Mandolin Associates Limited, email@example.com