Engineering business changes hands

UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT: Bluff Engineering and Welding partners for the past 30 years, Neil "Sub" Sutherland, left, and Paul Potter, right, with new owner Andrew Watkins
UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT: Bluff Engineering and Welding partners for the past 30 years, Neil "Sub" Sutherland, left, and Paul Potter, right, with new owner Andrew Watkins

A business that has been in Bluff hands for five decades might have been sold to someone from Tauranga, but Andrew Watkins said the town was now his home.

Mr Watkins and his Auckland-based brother Chris will become the official owners of Bluff Engineering and Welding today.

Mr Watkins had been working at the business for a number of years and had decided to make it his own when the opportunity arose. "I just enjoy working here.

"Bluff's still a place that's got a bit of community spirit ... You just feel like you belong."

No "drastic changes" were planned for the company, which had stood the test of time and was a credit to its former owners, he said.

Just under 20 employees work at the company.

Celebrating its 55th anniversary last year, the business had been owned by Paul Potter, wife Gaylyn, Neil "Sub" Sutherland and his wife Jayne for the last 30 years. Mr Potter's father Bill and co-founders Gillie Lewis and Bill Lothian moved from Port Chalmers to open the business, once the largest employer of apprentices in town.

Mr Potter said both he and Mr Sutherland would continue working at the company.

While there were some mixed emotions and nostalgia involved in the decision to sell, it was the right thing to do.

"It's got to happen sometime doesn't it," he said.

The people – both the employees and their clients – had made his time at the company over the years, he said.

Mr Sutherland, who started his apprenticeship there in 1972, said it was hard for him to pick a stand-out memory.

"It all just blends into one after a while, I guess. It's been a great place."

Bluff Community Board chairwoman Jan Mitchell said the majority of businesses in the town were still locally-owned.

The Southland Times