Future's sewn up

Brock Kaahu's mates would sometimes tease the Huia rugby prop for working on a sewing machine.

But the Motueka man is not hemming wedding dresses. From behind a large industrial sewing machine set into the floor at W A Coppins, Kaahu helps sew the company's award-winning sea anchors, including the one-tonne version the company is working on for the Norwegian Coast Guard.

Kaahu has further proved his skills by winning the title of the Apprentice of the Year for canvas fabrication, awarded at the annual conference of the Outdoor Fabric Products Association of New Zealand.

He won the title from 36 entrants by making a canvas duffle bag to precise specifications.

His boss, Bill Coppins, said he thought Kaahu won because of his attention to detail, noting that he found solutions to design challenges without changing the specs.

"Brock's a well-disciplined person in his work and in the workplace and he's not scared of hard work," Coppins said.

Kaahu is about three-quarters of the way through his apprenticeship, which he began after working at Coppins for three years.

During the summer he is kept busy sewing fruit-picking bags but winter gives him the chance to work on some of the innovative designs that have won the company international awards and export orders.

He said that once Coppins dreamed up new designs, it was up to him and his colleagues to work out how to build it. Along with manning a sewing machine, Kaahu is the company's rope splicer and travelled to Spain and Cyprus to help test the company's sea anchor designs.

His career may have started through a connection with a rugby mate but as he picks up more skills and gets recognised for them, Kaahu can see a future in the industry and wants to stick with it.

The Nelson Mail