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Giving something back

Brett Swain Southern Screenworks QM Magazine Featured Image

Brett Swain and his business partner Alan King have built Southern Screenworks from a screening plant into a mid-size company in little over 20 years. With 30 staff now employed at a variety of sites across Canterbury, the West Coast, Otaki north of Wellington and currently the Chatham Islands. Brett decided it was time to offer something back to the sector. He was elected to the AQA board at the annual conference in July and is now preparing for his second board meeting.

Brett sees three key challenges for the industry.

One is poor public perception. Brett says people don’t know the lengths the industry goes to in winning extractive rights – or operating them. He examples how Southern Screenworks employs a specialist contractor to observe and report on bird life in any of the Canterbury rivers sites where his company wants to extract gravel.

“If there are birds nesting, we move around them or go to another location.”

Brett serves on the Gravel Liaison committee set up by ECAN, Canterbury’s regional council, helping provide the interface which manages extraction.

Ensuring environmental protection and sustainability is a second objective for Brett at both a business level and for AQA. The company’s base is at Aylesbury, nestled below the Southern Alps about 40km west of Christchurch and close to the epicentre of the first Canterbury earthquake.

There’s an old council quarry on the site which Southern Screenworks has backfilled and planted with native shrubs and trees. Considerable research was done to determine what had been there prior to settlement 150 years before.

Some of Southern Screenworks aggregate is river-sourced. That can mean the 30 staff scattered over as many as 10 sites at one time. This underscores the importance Brett attaches to a health and safety regime that travels with every staff member. The company employs Keri Harrison as its full time Health and Safety manager, though Brett takes a hands-on role himself as do other key personnel.

Southern Screenworks only joined the AQA about 18 months ago, so it’s been a rapid advance for Brett to join the board. He acknowledges some encouragement, if that’s the word, from another Canterbury board member, Mike Higgins.

“Joining the board felt right for me. We’ve grown from nothing to a reasonably sized company. I thought I can contribute in a practical way from the knowledge I’ve built up.”

Outside of work, Brett lives at the North Canterbury settlement of Waikuku Beach with his partner Alison and their two young children. Their home is not much more than a stone’s throw away from the Ashley River, a source of some of the company’s aggregate; so he’s never far removed from the sector he’s come to love and is now giving back to.

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