On his adventures, he identified the market for construction stonemasonry, and also his aptitude for this type of work. While working in South Africa and the Middle East, Robin transitioned into cutting, polishing and fixing natural stone benchtops and granite building claddings.
Settling in Wanaka over a decade ago, Robin has become passionately involved in New Zealand’s Stonemasonry Industry. He is an active member of the NZ Stonemasons Association and tutors at the Cromwell Polytechnic. Robin contributes his industry knowledge to BCITO by sitting on the Stonemasonry National Advisory Group.
Robin’s Southern Stonemasons company works with a wide variety of stone types and styles of masonry including historical restoration work. Robin is also an accomplished sculptor. “What I enjoy most about Stonemasonry is that it is a never-ending learning curve always presenting new challenges, with the bonus of being an easily transferrable skill for those wanting to work internationally,” says Robin.
The geographical location in New Zealand influences the type of experience you will have as a stonemason unless you travel! People in the Auckland region gain more experience in volcanic stone while those in the south work mainly with river stone, schist and slate. Robin says, “I dream of an opportunity where apprentices could train in multiple locations on a variety of building types to gain a well-rounded experience.”
There are many considerations in construction stonemasonry regarding how stone is selected, shaped and fastened within the building, especially in earthquake-prone areas. Robin believes, “The industry needs to broaden its horizons with regard to the specification of standards. Currently, stone construction is only considered a non-structural veneer in the Building Code. This limits the scope of designers and makes every building incorporating stone as a veneer or loadbearing structure a specific design. Standardisation of the industry would allow fixings and methods to be more easily specified by designers.”
Over the last 10 years, Robin has trained six apprentices with BCITO. He believes, “This is important because recalling the old guys that took time to teach me, and now being an old guy willing to teach, it is important to preserve our trade for future generations, and [this] is reliant on such a cycle.
“While there is lots of trepidation about the future, especially in the tourism reliant Queenstown area, I believe that this is a good time to train and upskill staff. To anyone considering a career, Stonemasonry calibrates our history; my last trainee summed it up recently, ‘it feels organic & honest'.’”
As free trades training starts, being an apprentice and training in trades have become so much more attractive.
WorkSafe would like to ensure that you are aware of the risks of working with engineered stone benchtops, used primarily in bathrooms and kitchens.