A tribute to contractor, Pieter Carstens

18

MAY, 2020

BY STEPHEN SMUTS, CHAIR OF THE NAPIER MOUNTAIN CONSERVANCY. 

“Stadig Pieter, my brein kannie by bly nie. “

This was so often the case whenever Pieter Carstens came to our house in the Napier Mountain Conservancy or when I met up with him. He talked fast!

Pieter was, however, ever the gentleman and would try to slow down for me; but soon his mouth had moved up a gear and I was left trailing in the dust of his words.

I therefore simply took the view that he knew what he was doing. And he did.

From taking his team out daily, to getting his paperwork in on time, including his UIF and Workman’s Compensation, Pieter led his team from the front. 

    Knowing that the planning for areas to be cleared were tight on person days, Pieter took his own chainsaw into the veld to take pressure off those who had the tough job of cutting the bigger trees with hand saws.

    Few people realise just how tough a job that was and is. It is fine and well to calculate density and slopes which equals person days required. However, some days are unbearably hot (too hot to work); or cold and wet. Sometimes it’s simply too misty to even see the trees. 

    There are a range of other challenges that a contractor has to deal with: Project participants who fall ill, or need to visit the clinic. And others who need to know their pines and Port Jacksons from their proteas as well as the myrtles from the hakeas and know how best to tackle each species.

    What’s more, members of the alien clearing team, many with little formal schooling, are suddenly exposed to First Aid, Herbicide application, snake bite as well as safety protocols and banking accounts.

    As the contractor, it was Pieter who had to ensure all ran smoothly – people management plus paperwork management.

     

    Our journey with Pieter started back in 2013, when his name was suggested to run the first Napier Mountain Conservancy alien clearing team, under the management of Flower Valley Conservation Trust (in the ABI Alien Clearing Programme). And it proved a wonderful appointment.

    At the beginning of 2020, when the 2020/21 ABI Alien Clearing Programme began, I went into the veld to meet Pieter. I was shocked to see how much weight he had lost. At that time, he said he was going for tests. In the end, it was devastating news: Pieter had cancer.

    There is a small silver lining to this sad loss, both for the Napier Mountain Conservancy and the ABI Alien Clearing Programme. His daughter, Priscilla, who worked in McGregor, had given up her job in order to run the team. Literally and figuratively, she took over the driving seat, taking the team and her father out to the veld, as long as he was able, in Pieter’s smart Toyota bakkie.

    We will miss Pieter immensely. In Priscilla, we see the same drive as her father, and the same enthusiasm, plus she speaks a little slower than her father. We have every faith that she will maintain the high standard that Pieter set.  

    Rest well, Pieter. The mountain is in good hands!

     

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