The right stuff

In Short Story July 202310 MinutesBy Dave McCoidAugust 21, 2023

What’s the right mix for the ideal driver? A decent dose of work ethic, some natural ability honed with experience, some side skills – welding and fabricating steel wouldn’t go amiss – and humility. You want the sort who gets on with things without the local brass band accompanying them, but at the same time you want someone approachable, friendly, great to yarn to, a natural listener who contributes intelligently. If you blended up that mix, poured it into your ‘drivermatic – 1000’, and pressed the big green button, Colin Edwards might well fall out the bottom.

Seriously though, 48-year-old Colin is the nephew of Waihi- based vocational trucking icons John and Irene Lockley. With ties to Waihi and that surname, it’s no surprise he’s also related to the region’s other high-profile road transport family bearing the surname Edwards. Just to top it off in the pedigree stakes, would you believe the Chapel name appears on the family tree as well. Crikey!

Spend time with Colin, and you would have to say he is incredibly ‘Lockley-ish’ in his demeanour, and there’s no question that coming from that bloodline sorts the work ethic thing. For those who don’t know John, Irene, and family, put it this way – Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it would have come a bloody sight closer had the Lockleys built it.

Born in Te Aroha, Colin moved to Waihi Beach early in life and it was there he completed his schooling. Naturally inquisitive with a sense of adventure and a can-do approach to anything, Colin was in his element growing up in an idyllic corner of Godzone, not to mention in and around his aunt and uncle’s trucks.

The Lockley penchant for in-house maintenance and engineering soon rubbed off on a young fellow whose own father was an automotive engineer. Here was a place where Colin’s genetically ingrained talents could be fostered to the utmost.

A hell of an easy bloke to get along with. Immensely capable on a plethora of fronts, and a fantastic story to tell. Colin says he’s worked for some great people, and still is today. Very much at home in the big MAN.

“Uncle John and Aunty Irene were great to me, and fantastic mentors. John taught me to drive; he’s a great teacher. I remember heading off to Wellington for the first time on my own. It’s a big thing, your first solo trip. It took about 13 hours,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve driven off and on for John and Irene right through the years, and always helped out in times of need when I’m able. I owe them a lot.”

Although he tended towards casual tractor driving jobs rather than milking cows as a young fellow, Colin’s first job post-school was farming at Matamata. “I was instantly into the maintenance too, and the guy I was working for said I was wasted on just the farm work. He put me in touch with an engineering friend and I worked there in the weekends.”

Just under a year later, he was back home and did a stint with the Lockleys before heading to North Eastern Transport in Mt Maunganui for what ended up a mix of driving and engineering. “It was the early 1990s and sorting all the SRT calculations was in full swing.

It was really interesting and I got quite involved with Matrix Engineering over there, working out spring lash settings and spacings etc. North Eastern spent $30k a month on engineering and maintenance and I told the boss we could save a heap moving that in-house. He asked me to commit to a two-year stint, so yeah, we did that.

“I met Laurie Royal while at North Eastern. Laurie was a great mentor and has been a true friend over the years. We still have regular contact to this day.

“From there I moved to Domett Trailers completing my heavy fabrication – welding, tickets. Paul Domett was a fantastic boss. It was a great place to work – there was an awesome group in the engineering team. We were competitive but mates, so there was no shit. We inspired ourselves to be better. Trailer frames and alloy bins, we got into it all. Open-minded engineers who willingly shared information.”

Still only 24, it was overseas for the rite of passage OE, and while working in Southampton, Colin was introduced to a side of engineering that would play a huge part in his career from there on in. Working on container maintenance for Hapag-Lloyd, within weeks his obvious talents for bigger assignments was spotted. The result saw Colin working in the ship repair industry for the next three years for a number of companies that included the likes of BD Marine in the UK.

Returning home it was a short stint back at North Eastern before working for three years at Mount Steelcraft Engineering as the press brake guillotine operator. From there, he established himself in business as Katikati Marine Fabrication in 2011. “It was great, all manner of work and repair. Just myself, no employees.”

Never far from the wheel of a truck throughout his life, Colin’s next adventure lay in Ohakune. A return to driving full time at McCarthy Transport, Colin did two years there, culminating in a driver-training role. “That included working with the 6×6 Scanias working at Waimarino. A really challenging environment.”

Wanting more time with daughter Berlyn, Colin came off the trucks and took up the welding rods and angle grinders at Ohakune Engineering.

“We did work for the New Zealand Defence Force and also took on the Tangiwai Sawmill extensions. That was interesting work, a big job with some big structural steel. Really challenging, but also rewarding.”

A change in personal circumstances saw Colin move north about 19 months ago and start with Crusader Meats as a driver. “I was a bit down when I moved up here, and I have to say Mike is just a great guy to work for. It’s been awesome. I’m enjoying it a lot and I’ll likely be around a while I reckon. They are really good people to work for … my other skills have come in handy at times too.”

There’s so much more in this quietly spoken, natural-born adventurer’s life. He’s an avid hunter and has hunted extensively through the central North Island. He is a rare breed, someone born with one of the industry’s genuine can-do genes, doing it all without fanfare – yet intensely interesting to listen to as he quietly shares his experiences and observations.

“I tend to focus on something intently until I think I’ve gotten to grips with it, and then I’m looking for the next challenge. I’ve met so many great people and made many connections. I can’t see me ever being out of a job.”

One of the most interesting guys I’ve encountered in a long time, who’s greatest joy today is imparting his sense of adventure and confidence into seven-year old daughter Berlyn.

Hang on? When you think about it. Empowering girls to do and be all they can and want to be, telling them to ignore the bullshit and ‘noise’? I think that runs in the Lockley genes too!