A legacy studded with achievements: Remembering Wayne Cowan
Category: National. Posted: 5 December 2019
Wayne, who only retired from a 30-year career with Greater Wellington in 2018, died at the end of November after a short struggle with cancer.
He leaves behind not just a legacy studded with achievements nationally and within GW, but a host of memories for former colleagues mourning his loss.
Variously described as a “father figure,” “life coach,” “amazing and patient teacher,” and all round “wonderful person,” he was not afraid to mix humour and encouragement for people to be the best, with tough love.
His own experiences working with pest plant management and agrichemicals encountered their share of difficulty too, as Senior Environmental Monitoring Officer Sara Moylan recounts.
“He had a very eventful life and told many amazing stories from diving off helicopter skids onto the backs of deer to accidently driving a dozer off a cliff. He has narrowly missed low hanging wires while being a passenger in a chopper, has had a gun pointed at the back of his head while on his knees digging out pest plants and stopped a leaping dog attacking him, with a bayonet.”
All of this influenced his campaign to firmly embed robust Health and Safety practices at GW as Biosecurity Manager Davor Bejakovich explains.
“Wayne was one of the leaders in establishing meaningful H&S systems in GWRC and ensuring that the system was driven both bottom up and top down. He was great believer in staff wellbeing and, besides being a technical coach to generations of GWRC staff, he was a life coach to many long before we ever talked about staff wellbeing or mental health.”
He began his biosecurity career with the Wellington District Noxious Plants Authority in the early 1980s, before joining the Upper Hutt office when Greater Wellington Regional Council was established in 1989 - and where he remained till retirement.
Recognised for his work producing national training standards and an NZQA approved curriculum for pest plant operators; in 2017 was awarded the Peter Ingram Award for Excellence in Plant Pest Management Teaching and Learning having developed new techniques for applying herbicide, advanced knowledge in aerial spraying and leading the battle against invasive organisms.
He was also renowned for his knowledge of the intricacies of the Biosecurity Act.
This knowledge proved invaluable for his work on the national Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme, while Wayne’s advice and empathy for affected landowners also left its mark on the community he served,” Sara remembered.
“Countless times I heard him say to an irate client, “I understand you’re upset, however this is going to happen. We can do this the easy way or the hard way – your choice’ and they would be laughing with him within five minutes.”
New Zealand Biosecurity Institute President Alice McNatty acknowledged Wayne’s considerable contribution to biosecurity which is reflected in his earning the Peter Ingram Award which was decided by his industry peers.