Johnston Mac Tatana: Hard Working Businessman and Community Leader
On his fifteenth birthday Mac Tatana left secondary school with no formal qualifications and began his working life. Even today his only formal qualification is a drainlayer’s licence, but he believes his most important “qualification” is a certificate from the “School of Hard Knocks”.
Mac admits that he’s had to work hard for his success, making many sacrifices along the way – from precious time with his family, to sport and other past-times. Heavily dependent on payments from debtors, and working six days a week to survive, life was tough in the early days especially with the added pressure of a mortgage and a young family.
Inheriting a second hand concrete mixer from older brother Alec, Mac embarked on his first job in September 1964 securing the contract to carry out curbing and channelling work and a nib wall for a subdivision in Kings Drive, Levin.
This led to several years of curb and channel work on footpaths, mainly for the Levin Borough Council, still using the second hand gear from Alec and with a hired trailer. After several years he was able to buy his first excavator, secured with a very expensive loan, which he hired out to other local operators when not in use.
Today, Tatana Contracting Limited remains a family business based in Cambridge Street, Levin undertaking a wide range of civil engineering projects throughout the lower North Island. A Tatana company, Anzel, has the New Zealand franchise for an extremely modern technology pipe lining system.
A strong feature of Mac’s life has been his association with the Matau Marae, where he has become a highly respected Koroua (elder) of the Marae, providing leadership, guidance and a positive influence. He was a driving force in a ten year project to rebuild the marae after the original one was nearly destroyed in the Wahine storm.
Mac is a Life member of the Levin Cosmopolitan Club, an honour he received for many years of practical support with both contractor machinery and skills at countless working bees.
But most importantly, having missed valuable time with his six children in his younger years, Mac is thrilled to be able to spend time with his grandchildren today.