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Part of the furniture . . . Road Metals general manager George Kelcher is stepping aside from the top job at the end of the year. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

Road Metals will have a new general manager next year.

George Kelcher, who worked his way up the ranks at the sand and aggregate company since he joined in 1975, has decided to call it a day.

“We’ve got some good young fellas [at Road Metals], and they need to have a go, they need to be given time to have a go. If they want a hand, you are here to help – otherwise it’s ‘see you later’,” Mr Kelcher said.

When he joined Road Metals in 1975, Mr Kelcher had only intended to get three months’ experience driving trucks before going to Australia.

But that never eventuated, and he has remained at the company ever since.

“It’s because I can’t count,” Mr Kelcher joked.

He did get to see plenty of the country though, working on projects in places such as Twizel, Fiordland and the West Coast.

“We used to work in places where everyone else went on holiday,” he said.

The business, originally called North Otago Road Metals, has grown from 25 staff when Mr Kelcher first started to more than 200 now.

Mr Kelcher took over as general manager in 1992, when the business’ founder, Stan Francis, died.

He has also been president of the Institute of Quarrying and an executive member of the Aggregate and Quarry Association.

“Nothing happens without the quarry industry – no roads, no houses, no pipes for water, even make-up comes from quarries.

“The industry probably hasn’t done a good enough job of making that public enough.

“We are all environmentalists at heart. We all want to look after our own patch and leave it in a better place – if we can help manage nature at the best cost, that’s also part of the deal.”

One of the biggest changes over the past 44 years was the increase in bureaucracy and red-tape, he said.

“It’s all the things you have to do now to actually start your job. Once upon a time, you just started.”

Mr Kelcher is on the Waitaki District Council’s Harbour Area Committee and co-owns Guthrie Bowron with his partner, Joanne McGaughey.

Road Metals had always been a good place to work, and there had been plenty of highlights, he said.

“It’s an industry that people stay in for a long time.

“Driving around the country, you’ve played a part in something, whether it’s the Clyde Dam, Manapouri Tailrace or you’re just driving over roads.

“But the biggest thing [I will miss] would be the people – I’ve met some great people and made some great friendships.”