Hall of Fame Laureate – 2015 Horowhenua – Johnston Mac Tatana

Mac Tatana attended secondary school in Levin for only five months until he turned 15 and then he left to enter the School of Hard Knocks.

For his first job in September 1964 he used a second hand concrete mixer, inherited off older brother Alec, to do some curbing and channelling work and a nib wall for a subdivision in Kings Drive.

For the next several years Mac did curb and channel work on footpaths mainly for the Levin Borough Council using the gear he got from Alec and a hired trailer. Essentially he was wielding a shovel. Then he got his first excavator with a very expensive loan. The excavator was hired out to other local operators when Mac wasn’t using it.

Life was tough in the early days because Mac was dependent upon receiving payments from the Council and other debtors. He had to work six days a week to survive. He had to work six days per week to survive. He had personal commitments with a house mortgage and a young family and was lucky to be assisted by the late Pat Rae who was his accountant.

On one occasion when he tried to use a machine on a Sunday a local policeman threatened to do something drastic to hi m if he ever did that again. As a result of his work load Mac in his younger years missed valuable time with his own six children but is now able to spend time with his grandchildren.

Mac did not have much time for a sporting career playing rugby only briefly for Athletic then Levin Wanderers Rugby Football Club. He had an ankle injury and realised that work came first. He originally had one helper but today the business has built up to the extent that he now has about 18 in the workforce and office staff and professional engineers. The heavy equipment used these days is far more sophisticated.

When Mac started he worked in conjunction with the only engineer (Ron Hands) at the Levin Borough Council who came out and inspected the job and conferred about what to do. With amalgamation things changed and at Horowhenua District Council there were more Council people to deal with and a phenomenal amount of paper work which he had to organise himself. His office now essentially does the designing and engages three engineering staff and four office staff to cope with this.

A strong feature of Mac’s life has been his association with the Matau Marae. A great achievement of which he is very proud is that he was a prime mover in getting Matau Marae rebuilt after the original one was nearly destroyed in the Wahine storm.

As the land on which the original Marae had been built had been sold to a local farmer one of Mac’s uncles gave a neighbouring paddock for the new marae. His contribution included i flattening a good size hill and other site works in what was a ten year project building a gathering place for Ngati Huia Ki Matau. Mac is a highly respected Koroua (elder) of the Marae, providing leadership, guidance and a positive influence.

Mac is also a Life member of the Levin Cosmopolitan Club, awarded that honour for years of practical support with both contractor machinery and skills at countless working bees.

Mac’s only formal qualification is a drain layer’s licence but the most important qualification of all is a certificate in the School of Hard Knocks. Tatana Contracting Limited is now a family affair based in Cambridge Street, Levin. It undertakes work on a regional basis, contracting throughout the lower North Island and undertaking a wide range of civil engineering projects. A Tatana company, Anzel, has the New Zealand franchise for an extremely modern technology pipe lining system and today competes effectively against major contracting giants.