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