ATC stalwart does not like flying
Grant te Tau is not much of a flyer – which is ironic considering his long service with the local Air Training Corps.
The departing squadron leader of No 41 (City of Porirua) Squadron ATC did not think he would see more than 30 years in the blue uniform but that’s how it has panned out.
‘‘ I signed up in November, 1980. A mate of mine said ‘let’s have a look at this, we might enjoy ourselves’. He left but I stayed on.’’
As a 14-year-old back then he says he was attracted by the discipline and opportunities ATC – which began in World War 2 as a way to train air crew – offered. The bushcraft, drill, shooting and military structure appealed to the teenager, at just the right time he believes.
‘‘I was at a stage in my life where I was knocking around with the wrong people, I was close to getting in trouble. There wasn’t a lot for young people to do, so I’m glad I took the opportunity I did.’’
The armed forces are a driver for many that join ATC, and Mr te Tau was looking at that route, but a building apprenticeship came up instead. He stayed on with ATC, however, and has never regretted it.
‘‘It’s given me the chance to travel and do plenty in the outdoors. I love watching the young people coming in with enthusiasm and helping them learn skills and become leaders.’’
The 1980s were the ‘‘ boom period’’ for ATC in Porirua and much of New Zealand, te Tau says. At one point their membership topped 100 but remains steady around the 30 to 40 mark today. There are about 50 ATC squadrons around New Zealand, with cadets ideally joining when they are 13 to 15 years old.
Meeting once a week, there is a parade, then lessons, and regular weekend activities involve tramping, target shooting, sports and social activities, along with experiences in a glider, plane or helicopter. There are a number of national courses and overseas events.
The corps has a continued presence at Anzac Day, Remembrance Day, RSA national conferences and other civic events.
‘‘It’s a very positive organisation, still very valid today, and we always push the cadets to do better.’’ There are six ATC squadrons in the Wellington region, who have a healthy competitiveness among themselves, he says.
te Tau lived in Cannons Creek from 1970-1995 but these days calls the Kapiti Coast home.
‘‘I’ve been every rank in ATC and was the youngest squadron leader in the lower North Island at one stage. I’m still pretty new compared to some others but about two years ago I decided it was time for me to move on . . .’’
The ATC veteran will take up a role with the Sea Cadets in Levin and thinks he may be suited to the water. Ironically, he’s never been that keen on travelling in aeroplanes.
Air to sea: Squadron Leader Grant te Tau says the skills and discipline he learnt in the ATC held him in good stead for his working life in the Corrections industry.