July 8, 2022

Our People: Johnson Contractors Limited (JCL) – Lending a helping hand

We’re going to be regularly profiling our partners and those supporting the kaupapa of the KMR. Our first is a story from the founder of Johnson Contractors, Jack Johnson. 

When Jack Johnson stepped out of an eight year banking career in Kaitaia, he took a punt on a forestry career. 

Thirty five years later he plans to play a pivotal role in the success of the Kaipara Moana Remediation Programme with his 30-50 strong team lined up for riparian planting projects. Having planted millions of trees over the years they are well placed to step up and take a leading role. 

With dozens of staff at Johnson Contractors Limited, Jack feels he has an added obligation to not only keep his people employed but to grow them as people and continue to boost their skill set to give them more opportunities. 

Speaking from his Kaikohe HQ, which until recently was a shipping container for two cold winters, he sees KMR as integral to that. 

“This is a great project for Te Tai Tokerau. Good for the environment and good for the people of the North. Many of the people in my business whakapapa back to Kaipara …… back to Te Uri o Hau. Lots of our Kaikohe whānau live in Tinopai so we are really excited about this opportunity,” says Jack, the boss of Johnson Contracting Limited (JCL). 

While his staff say they are grateful for the opportunity to be working with him, Jack is equally pleased to have such a loyal team around him who want to teach the younger staff members just where they are from. 

They all see KMR as a setting the benchmark for eventually (and hopefully!) restoring all harbours in Aotearoa, just as they view Jack similarly in giving them the platform, tools and backing to go out and make things happen.  

His loyal team are proud to be part of an emergence of Maoritanga – with a strong focus on wellbeing. They believe many of the wellness aspects of riparian planting and improving nature helps connect people as they connect back to their Papatūānuku and their awa, no matter where they are from.  

With a recruitment arm to the business, Jack has no doubt his team can keep attracting and developing local talent to play their part in improving the health and wellbeing of the land. Vicky Karena-Cribb is leading that work helping young talent though training programmes, into paid work and ultimately ensuring they become trained professionals and leaders for others to look up to. 

His team is so passionate that staff like Matiu Tane – Cultural Advisor and Deputy in charge of JCL and Cultural Advisor – will happily turn up at the office at 5.30am to cook breakfast for the crews. 

They have a good feed and head out into the field happy to work in the rain and because their energy levels are up they are more attentive, lifting the levels of health and safety. 

Despite working from numerous remote rural locations, technology the past two years had made the business far more efficient thanks to zoom and skype meetings – even if it does mean a hike up to the top of a maunga to find coverage and jumping online! 

Says Jack: “We all want to put our young people in a better place by offering pastoral care and enhancing their lives and careers so they can care for their whānau while acknowledging our Tupuna. The reward is seeing them enjoy their work and seeing where they came from and where you take them. As a father, an employer and a Māori, there is mothing more rewarding than seeing people moving up the ladder and seeing positive social change. 

“My role and my passion is to put people in a better place whatever way that is and wherever that is. The same goes for the land and making that better. 

“To me, the KMR programme is about saving our resources for future generations and I want to see the project through to the end.” 

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