well-travelled
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A veteran well-travelled

Snow Edgar’s career spans decades and countries, but he hasn’t lost his passion for the people and industry he loves.

By Mary Searle Bell

Well-travelled is one way to describe Snow Edgar. The Nelson-based trainer and quarry manager has spent many years of his career working in various countries in Asia and Australasia.

Not bad for someone who, on leaving school, had no choice in the career he was to take.

“Dad had decided I was going into the NZ Forest Service as a tech trainee. I didn’t get a say in the matter,” Snow told Contractor.

However, the career pathway offered by the Forest Service as a logging specialist did not materialise and, with it looking unlikely to ever happen, Snow quit after four years.

“I joined Kenning & Horlor in Nelson as a truck driver, and after some time I secured a position as a handyman on Raoul Island for a period of 13 months. It was a great job.

“Shortly after my return to Nelson I moved to RA McClennan as a machinery operator and pretty much did anything that was required – sealing, chip work, I spent hours on the grader…” he says.

“I got a good schooling from Roy McLennan and Dave Horlor – both rose to high honours within the NZ Contractors’ Federation (now CCNZ) and both had a big focus on training. I remember Roy saying that you trained people and if they left you, you don’t get upset as they’re an asset to the industry, and they might come back to you later.”

“The need for training is increasing, so instead of going away into oblivion, I’m still here.”

Snow’s career took a fundamental shift when Roy formed a small quarry company called Flaxmore Quarries. Snow was a shareholder in the company, and soon gained his B and A Grade Quarry Managers qualification.

However, a few years later, a disagreement over blasting saw Snow and Roy part ways, with Snow setting up in business for himself in 1964.

“I grew that company to the point where I purchased an existing aggregates processing plant. But then times got tough and I sold off my contracting business to support the quarry business. In 1979, with the economy having taken a ‘nose-dive’, my accountant and I came to the decision to close the business, selling off all the plant and equipment by auction. I came out of it with my clothes on my back and a small utility. It was rough.”

In the year it took to sell all the gear, Snow worked for Tasman Asphalt (now Fulton Hogan) and undertook engineering work to keep himself occupied. He was then offered a position as project manager with Wilkinson & Davies and, in 1981, was seconded to Hong Lee Construction in Brunei.

This was Snow’s first overseas job and the project was to construct platforms for oil rigs – or as he says, “turning pristine forest into a drilling platform”.

Once that project was done, his next contract saw him move to Sabah in Malaysia for 12 months before returning to New Zealand.

“I kept myself busy with engineering work, but then a guy I had worked with overseas had contacts which led to me applying for a job in Pakistan. I was in charge of concrete batching, aggregate crushing, and roller compacted batching plants that were providing material for very large extensions to the power house for Tarbela Dam.”

“The Tarbela Dam was the largest earth filled dam in the world at the time, and the project included 743,000 cubic yards of overburden removal and 400,000 of rock removal by the drill and blast method. It used raw feed from the Indus River for the production of 340,000 cubic yards in stockpile and a further 225,000 cubic yards for concrete production.

“The people were very welcoming and friendly. They’d take you home and offer you a cup of tea with buffalo milk that took a lot of getting used to… I never did!

“A lot of the local workers couldn’t speak English and, as part of our contract, we were required to learn Urdu, but when we’d try to talk to the locals, they’d say, ‘no, our language is Pashto’, so I gave up after three or four lessons.

“I remember Roy saying that you trained people and if they left you, you don’t get upset as they’re an asset to the industry, and they might come back to you later.”

“Communication wasn’t a problem though. The foremen and supervisors all spoke English, and, with the locals, you’d talk to them in English and they’d answer in Pashto and we’d figure it all out. It was a most enjoyable contract.”

Snow does say the environment was most unusual. While he was housed in a nice bungalow in the compound built to house workers during the original dam construction, there were some 30,000 refugees living under canvas nearby.

That project ran for two years, finishing in November 1986.

His next stop was Papua New Guinea looking after a general contracting and gravel company in Lae. When the company was sold a little over a year later, Snow then spent a year in Goroka as the building manager for a company owned by PNG Nationals.

“When that business was wound up in 1989, I was invited to Kutubu, in the mountains of Papua New Guinea, for two years to look after the drilling, crushing and blasting on a Chevron Oil project managed by Bechtel Corp. It was a fly-in, fly-out contract. We had five crews working two shifts on drill work – everything was 24/7.

“I enjoyed that project very much.”

While working in PNG, Snow was also doing consulting work between times for an engineering company in Kuching in Borneo, Malaysia, helping with their tenders for roading projects and quarry operations. He also used his spare time to complete his quarry managers diploma, and qualified as a workplace assessor, joining NZCITO as a training assessor.

In the 10 years from 1992, Snow tackled a variety of jobs in a range of places – four months building a brand-new airport in Kuching, Malaysia, followed by 10 months as a supervisor for Taylors Contracting in Brightwater near Nelson. Then back to Malaysia for five months to a landslide stabilisation project; a few months on a slip remedial project in Sri Lanka, followed by another few months supervising drilling and blasting at a mini hydro and irrigation scheme in Laos.

Snow then spent three years here in New Zealand doing contract estimation and supervision before heading back offshore for a two-month stint in the Solomon Islands supervising and training drilling and blasting crews.

His final fling was in Malaysia as materials manager on a project to construct the Bakun coffer dam, and, in 2003, Snow finally returned to New Zealand for good.

“When I came home to Nelson I took up where I left off with the NZCITO. I built up a business doing assessments and training for local contractors and became involved with Exito, doing training and assessments for the quarry industry.”

Snow was also invited back to Taylors Contracting on a job-by-job basis.

With the traditional retirement age “well gone” for Snow, he has no desire to hang up his hard hat: “What would I do?” he asks. “I love my work, the people, the industry… and it keeps me off the streets.

“The need for training is increasing, so instead of going away into oblivion, I’m still here.”

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