My happy place: Paul Novella - SkyCity rigger

Paul Novella likes seeing people focus on the Sky Tower on New Year's Eve.
Paul Novella likes seeing people focus on the Sky Tower on New Year's Eve.

My happy place is at the top of the Sky Tower. On a beautiful day you climb to the very top and you stand on the pinnacle on the little platform and the world's your oyster.

I have three guys in my team and we go to the very top of the Sky Tower, so 328m.

I have no fear of heights but a great respect for them.

We'll stop work at any winds higher than 25km/h because it starts being a health and safety issue. It doesn't feel much on the ground, but when you're way up in the air it feels like a hurricane.

I've been a rigger for nearly 25 years. I left school in South Africa not really knowing what I wanted to do and my father sent me to work in one of the gold mines. I didn't really know what a rigger was, but I applied for the apprenticeship and got selected. I worked on the gold mines, did a lot of contracting on a gas rig, and a lot of work for heavy industry, and then I got a job offer in New Zealand. I started working for SkyCity almost seven years ago.

It's been a good journey. I've got higher and higher, from the gold mines - going down to 3km deep into the earth - to going as high as I can.

Every day's a different challenge. For New Year's Eve, we work alongside the pyrotechnic company to install and secure the Sky Tower fireworks display. Before the fireworks go off, you'll stand in the tower and look down on to Queen St and see all the crowds gathering - thousands and thousands of people all focused on the tower. That's a special moment.

We don't see the fireworks on the night - we're inside the tower, on the levels with no windows. The pyrotechnic guy sits on the inside with his laptop and presses the buttons, and we just hear the bangs. We've got ear protection but it can get pretty noisy - like standing in a tin can with someone holding a pot over your head and hitting it with a wooden spoon.

I try to get up the mast at least once a week to do inspections, and to the very top once a month, to do checks on the highest aviation light and the lightning conductor.

You get a completely different perspective - you can see all of Auckland, all the way to the Bombays, the harbours, Rangitoto.

It's a nice place where you can gather your thoughts and realise how good life is.

- as told to Bronwyn Sell

- Herald on Sunday

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