A restored ’69 Holden Monaro, a 1200cc Harley Davidson and a job driving a Cat-powered Kenworth logging truck – Christine Brown embodies the ‘livin’ it, lovin’ it, doin’ it’ dream for almost anyone with diesel for blood. Christine’s stature and demeanour belie her achievements; cracking it in a corner of trucking where the fairer sex are still few and far between. What’s even more amazing is Christine had no rite of passage, no name that helped wedge the door ajar even a little. Christine came from a cold start, simply deciding that a friend’s comments about her not being able to get a truck licence and that she shouldn’t consider driving, were wrong.
Christine’s story starts in Raetihi in 1964. Born Christine Walton she was the second youngest of seven, with one sister and six brothers. Her dad worked for the Post Office in the Lines Department, and her Mum dedicated herself to raising a family.
As was the case in many government jobs of the time, the family moved around a lot, shifting to Auckland when Christine was very young. Although she started school in in Auckland, the bulk of her education and upbringing was in the Waikato town of positions, at the same time paying her own way through and passing her Class 5 licence.
In 2007 Tanner Group based in Kerepehi gave Christine a job. She gained much experience at Tanners on bigger gear, delivering timber around Auckland, the Waikato, and Northland.
But Christine’s life was about to be upended. A drop-off in work meant that after nine months she was told there was only a month’s work left, and the following day Keith was tragically killed in a work accident. But size is no measure of courage, and after a month this amazing lady, with the support and encouragement of her two boys – now young men – got going again.
Sheer persistence got Christine a job at Trevor Masters Ltd in 2008, and after passing the renowned in-cab test with Trevor himself, then riding shotgun with some of the experienced hands to learn the ins and outs of the bush, Christine was assigned to a Kenworth log deck.
Log deck work is one of trucking’s harder assignments, combining log truck driving with timber deliveries and the many skills they both entail; skills like driving in the bush tracks, negotiating merchant yards in cities, as well as covering loads of dry timber. Christine succeeded, working at Masters for two years, only leaving when the opportunity to drive a dedicated skeletal log unit came up at Holmes Group.
Although life can put you through the wringer at times, it can also deliver you out of the rough times in ways you can’t imagine. Both her boys are succeeding in their chosen fields and while at Masters, a mutual friend introduced Christine to Wayne Brown. They both got on like a house on fire and were recently married.
Christine has been at Holmes Group for six years now and currently drives a Caterpillar-powered Kenworth K104, with an 18-speed Roadranger and rubber block suspension. It ’s an 8-wheeler and 4-axle trailer combination; the mainstay of her work being in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, South Auckland, and Northland regions.
Christine loves the challenges the log work brings, saying, “I enjoy getting out of the bush in difficult conditions, not getting stuck”.
She’s quick to say that she has had a great run with almost everyone she’s ever encountered and found workmates to be really supportive. “Any naysaying in the early days was short-lived.” Christine’s closing observations are, “It’s a great job, the hours are sometimes tough, trying to fit in other stuff you’d like to do, but I’m enjoying it for now.
I think compliance in the industry is crippling. I learnt so much riding in the passenger seat with great mentors.” Christine Brown, a remarkable lady whose example will surely inspire others to follow.