In his eight years at the Moss­man Su­gar Mill, Haydn Slat­tery has led the plant through in­ter­est­ing times, as he told Moya Stevens

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

Far North Queens­land is a long way from his birth town of Bro­ken Hill, but Haydn Slat­tery has made it his home for the past eight years. This week, how­ever, he leaves to take on new chal­lenges in Bris­bane.

Haydn was in his mid-teens when his fam­ily moved from Bro­ken Hill to Mel­bourne, and on com­ple­tion of his school­ing he took a job with CSR at Yar­rav­ille as a lab­o­ra­tory an­a­lyst.

“CSR was a fan­tas­tic com­pany to work for,” he said, “and once I got my cre­den­tials in ap­plied sci­ence I was pro­moted to var­i­ous po­si­tions, end­ing up in Mackay as pro­duc­tion man­ager in the early 2000s.”

Haydn met and mar­ried his wife, Cyn­thia, in Mel­bourne and had their first child, daugh­ter Ash­leigh, prior to set­ting out to their new home many thou­sands of miles away.

“It was then that I got a taste for Queens­land liv­ing,” he ex­plained.

“Al­though it was only to be a two-year sec­ond­ment, I ended up stay­ing three years and then was trans­ferred back to Mel­bourne.

“By then we had our son, Heath, and we only lived in Mel­bourne for six months be­fore we de­cided to move away from the cold, damp Mel­bourne weather and re­turn to Queens­land,” he said.

“The kids wouldn’t leave the house it was so cold.”

The Slat­tery fam­ily moved to Cairns where Haydn joined the SITA-CEC Group who ran the Bed­min­ster com­post­ing fa­cil­ity. Be­ing site man­ager, Haydn made con­nec­tions with var­i­ous cane farm­ers and in par­tic­u­lar, Ger­ard Puglisi from Dain­tree, who was “quite pro­gres­sive” in his ap­pli­ca­tion of com­post in­stead of tra­di­tional fer­tiliser on his crops.

Within two years of be­ing in Cairns he ap­plied to work with a com­pany based on the Moss­man Mill site but the then Mill gen­eral man­ager, Alan John­ston, spot­ted that he had the skills the mill needed.

“I started in 2009 as busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager, fo­cus­ing on de­vel­op­ing the bag­ging plant and by 2012 I was Alan’s deputy,” Haydn said, “and, liv­ing in the north­ern beaches, I just loved the drive up the coast road.”

Haydn has al­ways been a keen sports­man and has been in­volved with the Bar­ron River cricket club.

“It is al­ways great fun to play the Dou­glas Mud­dies as there are usu­ally a few of the mill em­ploy­ees on the team.

“I’m sad to say the Mud­dies usu­ally win,” he laughed.

Dur­ing his time at the helm of the mill, Haydn has wit­nessed many changes in­clud­ing the ac­qui­si­tion by Mackay Su­gar, tougher emis­sion con­trols and more strin­gent safety reg­u­la­tions.

“When Mackay Su­gar took over five years ago, Moss­man had the worst ac­ci­dent record com­pared to their other sites, but I’m pleased to say we are now the best – if not, one of the best – within the group.”

Haydn has been in­volved in the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of the mill, and this year he said it will be the best year so far for emis­sions re­duc­tion.

“One of the other achieve­ments is that, in 2014, the mill changed from a five-day a week plant to con­tin­u­ous op­er­a­tion, made pos­si­ble by an ad­di­tional 700,000 tonnes of cane com­ing down from the Table­lands,” he said.

“This had made a real change to over­all ef­fi­cien­cies and this year we can boast mak­ing a profit – first time in at least 10 years,” he said.

The mill has made a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on Haydn and his rec­ol­lec­tions of the ded­i­ca­tion, ca­ma­raderie and mate­ship among the 150 staff still im­presses him. “I’ve worked in a num­ber of places but I have never worked in a place where ev­ery­one pitches in to help ev­ery­one else.

“In 2014, when we went to con­tin­u­ous crush­ing, we had bro­ken two of the five mills and the only way we could get the last few thou­sand tonnes of cane through was to push it through by hand.

“So we ac­tu­ally had peo­ple, 24 hours a day for three days, us­ing pitch­forks to push the cane through the rollers.

“And ev­ery­one got in to do that – me, the HR man­ager, cane lo­gis­tics, op­er­a­tors and trades­men, to get the crush through and it would have been a lot eas­ier for the whole op­er­a­tion to stop and let the cane grow­ers miss out.”

Haydn will not miss the wildlife around the ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing in­clud­ing the 3m python, the grown goanna that comes into the re­cep­tion area at times or the spi­ders.

“I have a bit of a prob­lem with spi­ders and the staff have taken huge de­light in plac­ing plas­tic spi­ders in pa­per­work, around and in my desk – any­where where I will get a bit of a fright,” he said.

“And I learnt not to get too close to when the team were do­ing the end of crush wash down as they found noth­ing bet­ter than to ‘ac­ci­den­tally’ hose the man­ager down.”

Things he will miss in­clude the drive to work, the Car­ni­vale and try­ing to beat the Mud­dies at cricket. And he will miss “when the sky turns to sepia be­fore a big rain” and ad­mits he “had never seen rain like it can rain up here”.

But most of all, he will miss the peo­ple – col­leagues and friends. Haydn Slat­tery has been an in­te­gral part of the Mill. He may miss the Dou­glas Shire, and it could be sug­gested that the Shire will miss him too.

Ev­ery­one got in to get the crush through. It would have been a lot eas­ier for the whole op­er­a­tion to stop and let the cane grow­ers miss out

Haydn Slat­tery

Above: Haydn Slat­tery this week as he pre­pares to leave. In­set: The fi­nal board and man­age­ment of the Moss­man Cen­tral Mill in 2012 prior to Mackay Su­gar tak­ing it over: Back row L-R – Don Mur­day, Greg Wat­son Haydn Slat­tery, Bill Phillips-Turner. Front row: Ger­ard Padovan, Lex Liv­ingston, Alan John­ston and Mau­rie Maughan

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