Cardboard recycling scheme source of cash and camaraderie


It was through a casual game of golf that the Gore Pakeke Lions became involved in recycling cardboard.
Pakeke Lion Vic Taylor was playing a round of golf with a prominent member of the Gore Host Club in the late 1980s when he was told Gore Host was having problems finding a permanent home and the Carter Holt Harvey Mataura paper mill had stopped taking paper.
This, coupled with a declining membership, was putting pressure on available manpower.
Mr Taylor’s response was that the Pakeke Lions had a strong membership of retired people and a willingness to take on a project, and so a transition took place from one Lions club to another.
The cardboard recycling began with a very primitive start in Stewart Baird’s hay barn in Reaby Rd, where a borrowed wool press was used to compact the product.
On Monday, November 15, 1977, production began with members gathering cardboard with trailers, pressing it on Tuesday.
However, the verbal price mentioned was $100 a tonne but the price realised at the Mataura paper mill was only $60 a tonne, less $5 a tonne for cartage, so only a small profit was made.
By November, 2001 the operation had shifted seven times and this was a concern to the club, as it wanted something more permanent.
It approached the Gore District Council about the difficulty in finding a suitable building and the reducing financial viability of the project. Members were asking whether it was worthwhile carrying on because of low profitability.
If the venture folded, it would create landfill problems with Environment Southland and the eco-friendly disposal of used cardboard in the town would be lost.
With very good negotiators in the club in the form of Neil McPhail and John Falconer, a satisfactory arrangement was reached with the GDC and Environment Southland.
When the former skating rink in Hokonui Dr went on the market, three members bought it and leased it back to the club and, with a few modifications,the club now had a permanent site.
The club has a membership of about 65 and a big percentage of the members render their services on a non-roster basis for a few hours each week to run the fiveday-a-week operation pressing cardboard and paper.
The composition of the workforce is a cross-section of the community: former company directors, school principals, farmers, tradesmen, youths on work schemes, to name a few.
It is constant but not heavy work and the work atmosphere fosters camaraderie and good-natured banter. Most workers consider it therapeutic. ‘‘Smoko’’ is at 10am, when the topical issues of the day are discussed and debated.
They are a down-to-earth, pragmatic group, so should a councillor or member of Parliament wish to know which way the wind blows on current public opinion issues, sit in on the smoko sessions.
There is quite a cost in collecting the cardboard with running and maintaining two trucks, a forklift, the press and other gear. Over the past few years, the quantity has plateaued at about 900 tonnes of cardboard, paper and plastic.
The products are subject to strong market-price fluctuations but still remain by far the club’s greatest revenue provider.
— Contributed by Gore Pakeke
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