Employment - first D9 operator at Tullah

I joined the Hydro Electric Commission in about 1974 as a plant operator. At the time I was working for Davis contractors in Rosebery on the construction of a settling dam. I was on my way home to Devonport after the end of the week and I saw a D9 dozer parked on the side of the road at Tullah and wondered why it was there. The following week as I was on my way home it was still there and had not moved, so being curious I stopped to investigate and started talking to a tall thin man who informed me that he was an engineer and his name was Rick Boyle.

Rick explained to me that the HEC were about to start construction in the area on a hydro-electric scheme and the reason that the D9 was parked was because they did not have an operator for it at that time and offered me the job, saying that I could start Monday. This I had to decline as I was still employed by Davis, but if he was willing to allow me time to give notice I would be only too happy to accept. A deal was done.

In those early times we were accommodated in single men’s quarters at Silver City next to the old Tullah football ground. At the end of my first pay period as we were having tea at the camp, Rick approached me to enquire as to how I was settling in and how the pay rate was. I took the opportunity to inform him that the pay rate was pretty low compared to what I was used to so he told me to come and see him before commencing work the next day. The next morning I went to Rick’s office and he looked up the rates and found that I was already on the top rate so he then added a lot of extra allowances which made it up to a reasonable rate. This rate was often queried by the time keepers and I would say to them this is the rate that I was given by Rick and if they wanted to change it they had better see him which I knew they would never do.

So I was the first D9 operator at Tullah. I operated various types of plant over the years. I cleared and levelled out the Tullah football oval, helped clear the village site, pushed the road into Murchison and Mackintosh river sites, cleared the workshop site, worked on the Lower Pieman road where I became the senior ganger under Owen Nation, became a foreman on reaching the Stringers Creek Dam site then moved to Queenstown as a foreman in charge of road works on the Crotty Road. When this was stopped by the Hawke government I was made the supervisor in charge of plant operators which is a position I held until I resigned in June 1988.