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Down and dirty . . . John Baster stops for a break from working in Oamaru's Harbour St. PHOTO: TYSON YOUNG

Boat enthusiast and craftsman John Baster is part of the furniture in Oamaru’s Victorian precinct. He sits down for a chat with Tyson Young

Q: Where do you hail from?
I came from Whangarei originally, but I moved here from Wellington. It was a lifestyle change. I had a pretty intense time in the film industry and I needed to slow down a bit. I had friends in Oamaru and I knew a little bit about the town.

Q:  How long have you lived in North Otago?
About 10 years.

Q: What do you like about Oamaru?
I think small towns have got a lot to offer in the future, because we have a community that’s a good scale. We still have a pretty good community structure. It’s a pretty switched-on town in many ways, not just for the heritage but for many other things. I think another aspect of Oamaru that is pretty amazing is we have so many things within a small walking area. We’ve got heritage, wildlife and some pretty interesting social experiences. It’s well-served and it’s a very village-like environment. I’ll be very pleased to see more local identity emerging.

Q: What do you do for a living?
I’ve done lots of things. My actual skill set is that I’m a model-maker. I’ve done architectural model making. I also worked for Peter Jackson at Weta Workshop for 16 years and was the head of the model department for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I now work for the Whitestone Civic Trust restoring the buildings in the Victorian precinct and making sure things run smoothly around here.

Q: What are your thoughts on the pedestrianisation of Harbour St?
Thanks for handing me the hand grenade, ha ha. I think this street has always been a service lane. This street is always a working street – it was made that way. Now the street is finding new life and it has to keep up with the times. It’s probably a good idea to keep it as it was, while embracing new activities and lifestyles. I think the answer is halfway in between – a bit pedestrian, but you do have to get the man with the truck through to drop off supplies. You can’t expect him to carry the supplies down the street.

Q: If you were Prime Minister for one day, what is the first thing you would do?
I’d give everybody the day off and I’d ask them to think about what it means to be a New Zealander and what the core things are about our culture that we really cherish. We pride ourselves on being a relaxed country but that’s not good enough. We’ve actually got to know what we stand for and hold on to it.

Q: If you could have a beer with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
Joseph Campbell. He was a mythologist – a very, very interesting guy. I think that our challenge is understanding what it means to be in this world. Mythology and stories are what make us human.