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Gary Porter is not the archetypal brash tradie.

Quietly spoken, Gary projects a thoughtful demeanor that has no doubt helped him and wife Zara build a successful scaffolding business in Ōtaki. He says that as a local he cares about his family, his staff, and his business – pretty well in that order, no matter the economic or social pressures prevailing at the time.

Civil Works Scaffolding (CWS) has been operating for about 10 years, starting initially with just Gary doing the physical work, and Zara handling the paperwork and administration.

Soon, a few part-time staff became full time, and as demand grew more people were taken on. After acquiring a block of land and a building at the southern end of Aotaki Street in 2018, CWS began a growth spurt.

The growth has resulted in the company now employing 16 scaffolders and four office staff.

Gary was born and raised in Waikanae, but he and Zara have lived for many years at Te Horo.

After leaving school at the age of 15, he did a building apprenticeship and became a qualified carpenter. In a change of tack, he later worked as a diver on oil rigs around New Zealand and in the Pacific Islands. Wanting to start a family back home, he and Zara returned to Ōtaki and established CWS.

The period since has been a remarkable journey that Gary never dreamed would happen.

“If you’d said 10 years ago we’d be this busy have this many people working here, I would have laughed,” Gary says. “It was never our intention – the business has grown pretty well organically.”

CWS is now one of the biggest scaffolding companies on the Kāpiti Coast, servicing clients from Wellington to Palmerston North. The client list is deliberately diverse – from large developers and corporates to small-home owners.

“Every client is different,” Gary says. “They all have their own requirements, but of course they all want a job done well at a decent price.

“That’s why I try to talk to every one of them, to make sure they’re happy with our service and they’re getting what they pay for – and some.”

It means Gary doesn’t get on the tools much any more, but his hands-on approach still has him at work early in the morning to help load trucks for the day’s work and ensure everyone knows what to do, and that they’re happy.

Not long after the business started, Gary and Zara took on a business advisor, who set them on a track that helped them diversify their client base – not too many eggs in one basket – and establish business values that aligned with their own outlook on life. Their four priorities were:

1. Family first.

2. Good health.

3. Staff who enjoy being part of a family-based company.

4. A profitable business.

It seems to have served them well as they work through the current tougher economic environment.

CWS, 89 Aotaki St, Ōtaki. 021 440 526.

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