Quarrying & Mining Magazine

Farewell to an industry friend

By ALAN TITCHALL, Contrafed managing editor.

EX AQA PRESIDENT, James Boyce collapsed after racing at the Masters Regatta at Mercer back in August and was unable to be revived.

James spent five and a half years in our industry and almost a full three-year term as president of the Aggregate and Quarry Association, until he resigned in April 2010 from his job as operations manager of Holcim (NZ) Bombay Quarry.  Under the association’s constitution, board members must be working for a member company.

During his role as president, James was highly respected by the staff here at Contrafed, including myself as Q&M magazine editor (from 2007 to the present).

University educated and coming from a different industry gave James a refreshing perspective on quarrying, which worked both for him, and, in some respects, against him.

James was born in Christchurch and obtained a degree in forestry at Canterbury University, married and moved north to work for New Zealand Forest Products in operational roles in the Tokoroa area. The company was taken over by Carter Holt Harvey which, in turn, was assimilated by International Paper. At one point he managed the plywood mill at Kinleith, a 24-hour operation in which he was in charge of a crew of 300.

He decided to try something different, and was a consultant for six months, then he successfully applied for the job at Holcim’s Bombay quarry, where he spent five and half years.

In a profile, written back in his president years by the very capable journalist Gavin Riley (who used to be the editor of Contractor magazine), he said: “I prefer quarrying to forestry. I like the size of the industry, and the people are very approachable and very friendly.

“They’re very committed people, and they take a very long-term view. They’re not out to cut each other’s throats because that would be to the detriment of the industry’s long-term interests. They’re smart, sensible people who have an altruistic approach – they believe the industry is contributing to the betterment of society. That’s something I very much admire in the people I meet in the industry.”

The industry mostly liked James too. Encouraged by his employer to become involved with the Aggregate and Quarry Association, he was elected to the AQA’s national executive in 2005 and became president in 2007.

His achievements during his term were many, including new industry guidelines and lifting the association’s public image at a crucial time when it started to move from the back to the front foot, and impress on politicians and the public its indispensability to the nation.

The planning for the Aggregate and Quarrying Industry’ guidelines can still be found on the Quality Planning website hosted by the Ministry for the Environment. As James said at the launch: “Quarrying is poorly understood outside of its own industry.”

James also figured out very quickly that the industry faces sustainability problems in terms of supply if local authorities continue to ignore aggregate resources in their plans.

“I cannot see how the industry will be able to provide the aggregate required to sustain our current lifestyle requirements past the next 20 years,” he said a decade ago.

“Imagine a world without concrete or tarmac. No new roads, very little construction, virtually nil economic growth.  It is a world that few if any of us would wish to contemplate.

“I don’t want to be over-dramatic, but, from where I sit running a quarry on the Bombay Hills, this is a view of a New Zealand I am beginning to fear might emerge.

“If decisions are not made in the near future about improving access to rock and stone resources, we will all be paying a heavy price.”

Moreover, it has only got worse. As James pointed out all those years ago, there’s no shortage of aggregate in Auckland; there’s just no formal policy statement or national strategy for the provision of aggregate reserves into the future.

Another thing he noted is still very relevant today.

“Quarries are not the dirty neighbours that many people perceive. New Zealand’s Resource Management Act consent requirements are among the strictest in the world. In addition, quarries like all modern businesses have also grown into being responsible citizens.”

You could always enjoy a rewarding and very edifying coffee conversation with James.

On the subject of the consultative process of the RMA and time wasting, fear-based, evidence-lacking consent objecting, he told me about a submission that claimed that a quarry that bordered the Waikato and Auckland boundaries would induce “climate change by letting fog in from the Waikato to the Auckland region.” Moreover, it wasn’t thrown out with a laugh; the quarry had to hire a climate expert to prove otherwise!

On the subject of councils, James said their weakness when it came to aggregates was they did not always know where reserves were, but the industry did.

“But the thing that the industry doesn’t have is understanding where the demand is going to be into the future – and that’s what councils do have. They know where and how cities are going to grow, and that’s the information the industry needs in order to determine where quarries should be.

“If you put these two valuable bits of information together, you really have the whole picture. When you’ve got councils and the industry collaborating, they can come up with the best solution for planning for that future growth in an economic way.”

On another occasion he told me, “Most of our export sector is totally, and directly, reliant on extracting minerals.”

It took me a while to catch up with his reasoning until he explained.

“The grass and trees we grow are reliant on extracting minerals from the earth. The production chain on which our main exports are based, all starts with mineral extraction.”

Tenakoe, James. Wise words to leave us. Sleep well. 

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