Huhu forestry gangs are set to re­turn

South Waikato News - - Your Local News - LUKE KIRKEBY

Sport­ing their black and yel­low ‘Bum­ble­bee’ jack­ets the Huhu forestry worker gangs were once a big part of the South Waikato.

From the mid 1950s un­til the early 90s, when con­trac­tors were brought in to re­place them, the gangs took care of plant­ing, prun­ing, and nur­tur­ing lo­cal forests for For­est Prod­ucts.

The work­ers are now set to re­turn for a spe­cial Huhu Forestry Work­ers Re­union.

The event will take place at the Toko­roa Bowl­ing Club over the week­end start­ing Friday, Oc­to­ber 27.

Or­gan­iser and former Huhu lead­ing hand Robert We­hipei­hana said many of the former Huhu are now el­derly and it could be the last chance they have to re­unite.

‘‘Three of us got to­gether; my­self, Timmo Dob­byn, and Stoney Pa­para and we thought it might be a bloody good thing if we [all] got to­gether. A lot of us are now in our 60’s, some of the real old guys would be in their 70’s now, and many have passed on, so we thought it might be the last chance we get, we may never have this again,’’ he said.

We­hipei­hana said the re­union will start with a mix and min­gle evening where photos from the past will be shared.

‘‘Friday night from 6pm will also be a chance to reg­is­ter and on Satur­day we are go­ing to have a wel­come in the morn­ing from 10am fol­lowed by a fam­ily day,’’ he said.

‘‘We are try­ing to or­gan­ise some events that we used to do as

‘‘We thought it might be the last chance we get, we may never have this again.’’ Robert We­hipei­hana

we used to have com­pe­ti­tions amongst the gangs. We’d play sports and we also had one event we called the Weight Jacks Com­pe­ti­tion where we hit tar­gets.’’

‘‘On Satur­day night we will then have a re­union din­ner. After that we don’t know where it is go­ing to take us,’’ he laughed.

Dob­byn said it would be spe­cial time for the gangs, which were usu­ally made up of 16 to 17 work­ers each.

‘‘For many of them it was their first job straight out of school so it’s where it all started,’’ he said.

‘‘At this stage we have got about 60 work­ers with our part­ners and for the peo­ple that have passed on the in­vi­ta­tion will be ex­tended to their fam­i­lies.’’

We­hipei­hana said there will be many mem­o­ries to share.

‘‘The gangs were like fam­ily, it was a fam­ily thing,’’ he said.

For more in­for­ma­tion phone 021 023 46423 or 021 314 182.

LUKE KIRKEBY/ STUFF

Former Huhu forestry worker gang mem­bers Robert We­hipei­hana and Timmo Dob­byn with a photo of fel­low work­ers in the 1970s.

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