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Nigel Cash
nigel cash

All round good guy

His business card says it all; ‘’Nigel Cash,  All-round good guy.’’ His boss, Atawhai Industries general manager Steve Hales says the description is both accurate and justified. “If I want something done I just go and see him, there’s never any problems.’’ 

Now a valued member of the management team,
Steve recalls it wasn’t always that way.

“When Nigel first came here he was probably still in a schoolboy frame of mind. He didn’t really know much about work, or safety or expectations, but it didn’t take us too long to work out that he had a lot of in-built skills. He learnt really fast and he likes responsibility. Back in the days of forestry, Nigel spent a couple of years there and started to take crews of four or five people out by himself in the truck. He had a full licence, was doing all of the quality control, forestry planting, pruning and thinning and we got him tickets for chainsaw use.’’

In 1997, when Steve took over as General Manager, things changed dramatically for Nigel. “I realised he was only getting $10 a day, attendance allowance, because he was on a full benefit. I knew that wasn’t right, so put him up to full wages – which was more than the minimum wage too. Some said at the time we couldn’t afford it, I said ‘we can’t afford not to’.’’

In 2001 Atawhai moved out of forestry work, but kept Nigel on. Steve says he’s “a very good asset’’ and has never been back on a benefit since. “It was easy to teach him other aspects of our business, so he worked in the horticultural department and still did some tree work, gardening and a lot more. He also ran our bread sales department, and now manages the engineering department as well.‘’

Now 41, Nigel has worked at Atawhai for more than 20 years. His journey is one he’s proud of. “When I started in forestry, I was just a boy, a worker, then I got asked to help run and supervise teams. So it was really good when Steve put me on full pay. It made me feel like I achieved something. It was a turning point in my life. I’ve never been on a benefit since and I never would. Having been through special needs all the way through school some of my school mates dissed me, and now I look at what they’re doing and what I’m doing, it makes me feel really, really good.”

When he started work at Atawhai, Nigel lived with his mum. Now he and his partner have bought their own home where they live with their five year old daughter. His sense of pride is obvious: “I did it all myself. I spoke to Steve and Linda as homeowners for advice, but I did it all myself.’’

Just as obvious is his gratitude to Atawhai. “This place helped me get into the fire service as well. I’m second in charge of running the operations-support unit. I’m a good all-round guy for them as well and will do anything. I’ve been in the fire brigade for 20 years now. I started there not long after I got the hang of things at Atawhai. It gave me a lot of skills, working here.‘’

The last word belongs to Atawhai chairman Gary Brown. “Nigel is an example of someone who came into the trust as a client and we’ve nurtured him to the point where he is now one of our senior staff. That’s a good illustration of what can happen.’’ “We were particularly inspired by Nigel’s journey as a client through to becoming a manager within the business.’’

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