Dannevirke's Bernard Arends knows what it takes to get kids off the couch - drive and determination - and his son Richard has it in spades.

Richard, 40, attended primary school in Pongaroa before going to high school in Feilding.

After getting his helicopter pilot licence in Masterton, where he also became an aviation engineer, Richard started his working life shepherding for 10 years in Hawke's Bay and Taihape, as well as two years at Smedley Station in Central Hawke's Bay.

He then headed to Australia.


"I'm a bit of an adventurer and after a couple years working on a cattle station and then a year in the Northern Territory flying a chopper and mustering cattle, I headed to Western Australia," he said.

After a year on the ground working on a station, he was in a chopper mustering the vast, open spaces.

Former Pongaroa schoolboy Richard Arends at home in the saddle at rodeos in Western Australia.
Former Pongaroa schoolboy Richard Arends at home in the saddle at rodeos in Western Australia.

"There's a lot of country to cover," he said.

After 10 years Richard had accumulated enough money to buy his own property Edmund Station, all 110,000 hectares (a quarter of a million acres) in the Pilbara. It's a dry, thinly populated region in the north of Western Australia where Richard runs 1000 breeding cattle on what appears to be just red dirt.

But the cattle are an impressive size, a tropical breed, the droughtmaster, as red as the dirt. The cattle graze buffel grass and Richard said in the winter there is a lot of herbage.

"My place isn't that big by Aussie standards.

"There's bush and a lot of rocks and the block, a former sheep station, hadn't been farmed for a long time. Only a third is usable, but there are water bores and I'm getting them going again. It's real dry country, far away from the coast, so there's no humidity."

And with his mailbox 40km from his homestead, and the mailman coming only on Thursday, Richard said: "It's an extreme sort of place. Droughts are normal, but we might get a cyclone, then no rain for two to three years. All the surface water has dried up, gone, and it was 44C when I left to come home to Dannevirke."

After a Christmas break Richard headed to South Westland for his summer job flying with Fox Glacier helicopters.

"There's not much going on when it's 44C back home, so this is the second summer I'm flying at Fox," he said.

Richard said he loves working at Fox, especially during the busy tourist season.

"We do a lot of heli-hikes on the glacier."

Richard has some advice for those with a dream.

"Anyone can do it. I'm pretty laid back, but the dream is there to grab."

And it doesn't stop there. Richard and a mate are looking at a job flying in Canada, carrying out mine support.