John Driscoll is ending a 16-year association with Ashburton service hub Community House Mid Canterbury and retiring as its manager.
The 67-year-old has been a leading light in the hub’s success and development over the years and is leaving with it in a very healthy position.
Community house is home to 26 tenants and a number of casual users, many of which deliver health, wellbeing and other valuable services for the district.
John has looked after tenant needs since September 2017 and for seven years before that was chair of the charitable trust that overseas the facility .
He led the charge to get tenants in the current building on Cass Street in 2016, the site of the tragic Winz shooting.
“Getting in the the building was a real coup,” John said.
A grant of $500,000 from Ashburton District Council and other funding had enabled the purchase and refit.
John said community house was a local success story and real community asset.
There had been challenges and frustrations getting to where it was today, but it had all been worth it.
He first put up his hand to get involved with the community hub through his involvement with Birthright.
The hub was then called the Ashburton Resource Centre but later changed its name to better reflect its purpose.
It is a not-for-profit community-focused facility that provides low cost rents.
“We do run on the smell of an oily rag to keep rents down.
“I’ve been known to go round turning off lights to keep the power bills down,” John said.
Power and cleaning were two of its biggest expenses.
John said his office door had always been open because he had a passion for talking to and meeting people.
Born and bred in Mid Canterbury John is a third generation farmer.
He took over the family sheep and crop farm at Newlands in 1984.
“I borrowed at 5% to buy it and two years later the rate was up to 26% and with penalties 33%.”
Financial struggles and draught conditions combined and he was forced to sell up.
He walked away with little more than his stock – 6000 lambs worth just $11 each at the time.
John said losing the farm was very tough pill to swallow and hard mentally.
He had been very down, but received strong support from his wife Alison.
“I thought I had failed. Previous generations had passed down the farm, but I couldn’t do the same.”
John had another stab at farming, but the stress and mental anguish affected his health and after new hips and back surgery he was advised to do something different.
Following a lifestyle change he retrained as sewing machine mechanic with Bernina and still keeps his hand in with repairs today.
John said he lost his farm connections after selling up, but made new friendships through Ashburton Rotary.
Over the last 20 years he has taken on many roles at the service club, including that of district governor and on the Rotary Foundation.
Being part of the service group has helped him correct a stutter and built his confidence, he said.
John is also the chair of the National Party’s Rangitata electorate and has been involved with the party for more than 25 years.
Retirement at the end of this month will mean more time with his eight grandchildren and four children. A new caravan purchase will also see him and Alison hit the road.
-By Mick Jensen