Raised on the family farm high above South Canterbury’s Hanging Rock, Ian Gould was educated in Pleasant Point. However, while sport was fun, he decided school was no longer for him and at 16 years old he took up a building apprenticeship in Timaru with Hayes and Porter Ltd. Eight thousand hours of building later and he was a fully-fledged carpenter, a career choice he has always remained faithful to – along with farming, rearing Clydesdale horses, consultancy, orcharding and the Timaru A&P Association which has merged to become the South Canterbury A&P Association, even holding honorary life membership.
Running his own building business for 24 years, Ian rode the waves of an unstable building economy throughout South Canterbury, employing up to eight builders when the market allowed. In 1984 he joined the Master Builders Association and soon afterwards became the president of the South Canterbury branch, a role he chuckles about and obviously one he enjoyed but ‘it was a position I found very hard to get out of!’ However, from there he progressed to the national board of Master Builders, ‘the youngest on the board by miles’ and at a time of immense change. Ian explains the board had been ‘locking heads’ with the construction union for months every year, but with the deregulation of the unions, Master Builders could focus not just on the big commercial companies that attracted the interest of the unions, but also the smaller businesses. ‘I saw the end of the union movement and we started to develop the Master Builder brand to help the smaller builders.’
Under Ian’s watch, Master Builders instigated a field officer on the ground in Canterbury, someone who could support builders with ‘legal stuff, documentation, membership’ and before long the successful pilot project saw a full team launched across the country. Finding a suitable person to head up this team was problematic though and Ian was approached on several occasions by fellow board members. The answer was succinct, no doubt softened with a trademark laugh, but clear nonetheless. ‘Piss off!’ However, a back injury saw Ian backtrack on his initial response and eventually he wrote a half-page curriculum vitae. Ian delights in his CV – what does a self-employed builder write when the last time he applied for anything was his apprenticeship as a 16-year-old boy?!
Guiding the national team was one Ian thrived on. However, working out of Timaru was geographically challenging and he chose to ease back into a South Island role. The work is varied, often involving courts and tribunals. Representing the builders, Ian has taken on ‘difficult clients who don’t want to pay, builders who’ve made a mistake and the clients are trying to screw them, and builders who may or may not have been negligent’. He references the Christchurch earthquake repairs and the political tightrope builders have inadvertently found themselves navigating.
Supporting the builders, Ian’s sincerity is transparent when he says, ‘I got a lot of pleasure out of representing builders and seeing them not brought down by bureaucrats.’ Never one to pursue accolades himself, it seems entirely fitting that in 2018 he was awarded the New Zealand Master Builders Association Merit Award for Services to Building. Honoured yet humble, Ian’s eyes crinkle mischievously. ‘The bastards cornered me,’ he chuckles, ‘they set me up!’
While Ian’s dedication to his trade has been unwavering, even including the review of building code legislation that he refers to as the ‘Builders’ Bible’, it’s only the tip of a life-time dedicated to helping others. When his sons, Ashley and Steven, were diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) as infants, Ian’s interest in the genetic condition was fuelled. Medical advances have been remarkable and where the boys’ life expectancy was a mere 16 years when first diagnosed, Ashley and Steven are now in their late thirties.
For some, the health of their own children is enough, but for Ian this was just the start. Intent on helping others in similar situations, he joined the board of Cystic Fibrosis New Zealand, taking responsibility for the welfare portfolio. He was a fierce advocate, lobbying parliamentarians for action and thanks to Ian’s tenacity and a ‘bust-up in Parliament’ the government began to fund CF screening, the heel prick test most new parents will be familiar with. On another occasion Ian teamed up with the South Island Lions Clubs and fundraised for a group of adults living with CF to attend an international CF conference in Sydney. Ian could have patted himself on the back. Instead he speaks reverently of a doctor from Britain who spoke to the group about female fertility rather than attending a cocktail party.
Ian’s links to Epilepsy New Zealand are a little less personal. His wife Marjerie worked for the organisation and after some ‘underhand stuff with a treasurer’ the plea came out for someone to step up and save the South Canterbury branch. Under Ian’s subsequent leadership, the branch not only flourished but offered services other areas couldn’t. This also coincided with the first year of the Central South Island Charity Bike Ride, a three-day bike ride covering 367 km. Epilepsy South Canterbury were the inaugural recipients of the fundraiser, something Ian describes as ‘fitting in nicely with saving a branch’. For the next 10 years Marjerie rode in the event and Ian ‘carted the gear’. Unsurprisingly, Ian went on to sit on the board of Epilepsy New Zealand and he remains as chairperson for the Epilepsy Foundation New Zealand, an organisation he says is to be wound up and run through Perpetual Guardian to become a provider of funds, a move he supports as an important one in removing ‘competition out of the fundraising market’.
While Ian’s dedication to service has seen him sitting on some high profile boards including BRANZ and as chairperson of the Master Builders Association of New Zealand housing committee, it continues in the privacy of his own home. Already a father as well as step-father to Marjerie’s sons, Hayden and the late Nikolaas, Ian and Marjerie have provided respite for numerous Oranga Tamaraki (formerly Child Youth and Family Services – CYFS) children. At just seven months old, their youngest son Matt (11) joined the family when he was uplifted by police and CYFS in heartrending and tragic circumstances.
Today, Ian’s life is coming to a close. He was meant to die two Christmases ago, but he defied the odds and fleetingly beat the cancer, even becoming well enough to risk life-prolonging surgery that could have killed him. ‘But I woke up,’ he laughs. A trip to Europe was planned but secondary tumours were found last Christmas. Ian’s philosophical. ‘Bugger me,’ he shakes his head.
Ian might have a cut-off date but don’t think that’s going to prevent him from helping others right up until he can’t – or that he has given up hope. He and Marjerie have downsized and Ian has overseen a major renovation of the home, personally grafting to provide a landscaped hot tub area for Marjerie and the family to enjoy. And then there’s his funeral. He has written his eulogy and planned the farewell. ‘If I have to die, I feel privileged to be able to plan my own funeral. We’re going to have some laughs and I think more people should consider it.’ Of course he’s also thinking of his loved ones, determined to reduce the pressure for them.
In the meantime, he says, ‘Who knows, a miracle could happen, but I have no regrets in life and I’ve enjoyed helping people.’
Words Pip Goldsbury