10 months ago

Selwyn Times: June 21, 2016

Kea (Nestor Notabilis)

Kea (Nestor Notabilis) 16 Tuesday June 21 2016 SELWYN TIMES Our People ALBERT BRANTLEY has a good handshake. It’s the same handshake he used when meeting former United States president Jimmy Carter, when negotiating tricky trade deals close to Taliban frontlines – and now – as he sets out to do his part in restoring Christchurch to its former glory. It is also the first thing I notice when he ushers me into his Worcester Boulevard office, eight storeys up with floor-to-ceiling views of the Avon River and Cathedral beyond. He motions at the busy cityscape: “It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I can see it all happening,” he says. The Canadian speaks with a gentle accent – one that has stuck with him through decades lived in New Zealand and overseas. He has been to a lot of places, and he has got a lot of stories to tell. He doesn’t tell them much. This is the first time he has talked publicly since he was appointed to the Otakaro role in April. He usually prefers to get the work done than talk about it, he tells me. We both take our seats, and Mr Brantley starts his story from the beginning. “I was born in Canada, and me and my older sister were brought up by our grandmother there. She [my grandmother] knew FUTURE PRESIDENT: Jimmy Carter, then the Governor of Georgia, and Albert Brantley at the opening of the ground sloth display at the University of Georgia Science LIbrary in 1973. (Right): Brantley with wife, Beverley, and daughter Sarah (aged around 3) in the Empty Quarter, Saudi Arabia. she wouldn’t always be there for us, so she was pretty big on selfreliance.” While still in high school, Mr Brantley took on a job at a textile manufacturer to help pay the bills. This was no ordinary after-school job – Mr Brantley would work an eight-hour shift starting at midnight every night, then pull off an entire school day after that. It was the hard slog that made him aim high in his career, he explains. “I just realised I wanted something better, so I earned a scholarship to study geology and engineering.” A young Mr Brantley moved out of home and headed to Georgia to take up the scholarship – a move that would shape the rest of his life. He was at graduate school when he got an interesting call. The state of Georgia was building a highway, and roadworkers had unearthed what they thought was a Spanish cannonball. Mr Brantley was asked to investigate, he explains: “What it actually was, was a hip bone of a giant ground sloth [a prehistoric elephant-sized sloth]. It was one of the biggest ever found.” Embedded in the ground underneath the planned motorway were not one, but three prehistoric sloth skeletons. Mr Brantley was tasked with excavating them (“it would pay for the rest of my studies,” he explains) and that’s when the then-future president Jimmy Carter stepped in. “He was the governor of Georgia at the time, and he said if I could unearth all three skeletons, he would pay to get one mounted at the museum, and he would be there at the opening,” he says. So unearth all three Mr Brantley did, and true to his word, Mr Carter was at the opening. The two kept in touch, and to this day Mr Brantley catches up with the now-former president “every now and then.” Selwyns best read local newspaper – with the biggest circulation in Selwyn Delivered FREE to 18,300 homes weekly across the entire Selwyn district Additional copies available at pick up points across Selwyn. Selwyn Community Newspaper Times A Christchurch Star Company HEAT PUMP SALE NOW ON! Amazin’ winter Specials!! • We will offer you the best quality brands and option of heat pump for your home/business • Providing Heat Pump solutions for over 14 years to Cantabrians • We personally guarantee all our products & installs for 5 years (providing annual maintenance has been completed) Phone us today for your free consultation & quote 41A SHAKESPEARE RD, WALTHAM PHONE 03 366 0525 “A local team for local people”

SELWYN TIMES Tuesday June 21 2016 17 “Yes, I’ve met with him multiple times over many years, but I’m not claiming friendship with the ex-president, no no. Jimmy and I come from very similar backgrounds and have similar values, we share many of the same beliefs,” he explains humbly. The strong morals and ethics his grandmother taught have stuck with Mr Brantley and served him well in business, he says. “In all my years of business I’ve done nothing I’ve been ashamed of.” After graduate school, he took a job at a mine working out of northern Canada. But eight years of working on the Arctic ice was “quite enough” he says, with a small shiver at the thought. “To be perfectly honest, I was tired to death of freezing at 60 degrees below zero.” That’s when he got offered a job in Perth, Western Australia. He moved there, and never lived in Canada again, he said. “I’ve been a bit of a professional gypsy ever since.” He first came to New Zealand in the late 1980s – serving for four years as the chief executive of L&M Mining. During that time he met his future wife, Beverley, in Christchurch. They married soon after, and she travelled the world with him - always following the next job. There’s not a lot of jobs calling for Mr Brantley’s unique skill set. He has worked at multi-billion dollar desalination plants in the Middle East and Pakistan, where he was given huge responsibility to bring together teams and ensure whole countries had a fresh water source. Working across different cultures and countries has given Mr Brantley a gentle, but firm leadership style. He was once described as “an iron fist in a velvet glove.” “I know a thousand ways of saying ‘no’ without offending anyone. I’ve realised by working with people that there are many RARE: Albert Brantley releasing a whio (new zealand blue duck) during a Genesis Energysponsored recovery programme with the Department of Conservation, around 2013. different views of the world and they’re not necessarily ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but you’ve got to stick to what you believe,” he says. He has worked in India, South America and the unsettled Philippines – under the Marcos regime at the time. His growing family was always in tow. Erin (now 37), was born in Guatemala, Ryan (now 33), was born in the Philippines and Sarah (now 15), was born in Guatemala. I ask him if he considered it dangerous. He shrugs. “When I was working for big American companies, they got me to do a CIA defensive driving course because they were worried about possible kidnapping risk.” A security detail was assigned to Mr Brantley and his family in many places. He helped evacuate ex-pat American families from Saudi Arabia in danger zones just after the September 11 terror attacks. In Pakistan he managed a power plant close to Taliban front lines, in the Philippines he operated under the Marcos regime – considered one of the worst dictatorships in its history. He wasn’t in direct danger – “just in danger of being caught in crossfire,” he explains calmly. But while he travelled all around the world, Christchurch always had the pull of home. “New Zealand for me is like a small Canada. Christchurch has the flavour and appeal of a country-roots kind of city which is trying to grow up a little, it has all the advantages of an urban culture but it doesn’t overpower the natural landscape.” •Turn to page 18 The Tailor, The Dressmaker And All The ‘Whatevers’ Because whatever we do, will make a difference. Bring in this advert to receive your $5 discount voucher. (Min spend $25) Ph: 03 343 5438 44 Clyde Road, Ilam Mon - Fri 8am - 6pm Sat - 10am - 4pm