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Former kiwi conservationist now carrying on family tradition

Keeanu Lackner canva

KEEANU Lackner, Ngai Tūhoe, had been on the job only a few months when he was shoulder-tapped to do the Wairoa Young Achievers Trust leadership course.

“QRS offered me the chance to do the course so I took it, and the trust also helped me get my full drivers licence,” says the 23-year-old labourer.

“Now, when I’m out on a job, what I learned all comes back to me, especially in the way I communicate with others, so it was really worth doing.”

The former kiwi conservationist started his career with Quality Roading and Services in the routine team. He now has tickets in Wheels, Tracks and Rollers, traffic control (TC and STMS), handling of dangerous goods, and bitumen safety and handling.

These days he’s working mainly on stabilising roads. “It can be hard work but knowing you are helping make the roads safe for all our people is really rewarding.”

Road maintenance is a big change from his former job, in which he spent six years looking after kiwi at Lake Waikaremoana, carrying out pest control and making sure the iconic birds were tagged and tracked to ensure they were thriving.

“I did need a change but that was amazing mahi. The kiwi are so calm in their environment that if you need to change a tag, you just pick them up and pop their head under your t-shirt to send them right off to sleep!”

The change of job has also meant a change of lifestyle, with Keeanu, partner Karleigh Watson-Walker and their pre-schooler Kymania-Rose leaving the lake to live in Wairoa town.

“I do love the bush, being able to hunt and gather kai for our whānau, but I needed to be closer to work,” he says. “But I still get to do plenty of hunting, fishing and diving so we're really lucky.”

That Keeanu has taken to the work so readily is no surprise – his grandparents worked in the roading industry and were a big inspiration. “I'd always wanted to work around big machinery so when I was excited to get the call to come to QRS for an interview,” he says.

“Being able to get my tickets is great, too, as it makes me feel I have something to take into the future. I am just so glad to be here.”

25 November 2021

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