Les Curtin – exemplary public servant

  • Jim Anderton
Fisheries and Aquaculture

Les Curtin, the oldest employee with the Ministry of Fisheries, retires at 78 years old on 22 December 2006, having has served the the marine department for 40 years
Minister of Fisheries, Jim Anderton sent a letter of appreciation and tribute to Les Curtin, the oldest employee with the Ministry of Fisheries, who retires tomorrow. Mr Curtin arrived from New South Wales in 1966 and he has worked with the marine department for 40 years. He is now 78 years old.

“Les Curtin has had a pioneering role in our oyster farming industry and is a key figure in the development of New Zealand’s marine farming. He has also been an exemplary public servant who has worked to the highest traditions and aims of that role. Industry people and work colleagues describe Les as an excellent communicator, unassuming, unflappable, charming, and courteous – with warmth and humour,” Jim Anderton said.

“Les Curtin can take a lot of credit for the oyster farming industry we have today. His role involved overseeing the site selection, construction, and farming of oyster farms around the North Island. Les also built and ran the Government aquaculture hatcheries and was responsible for training people in farming practices.

“He set up farms in the Northland and Auckland harbours and those farms have created employment in many small coastal communities and, in particular, have benefited local Mäori. Small towns like Kaeo are doing well because of the employment created by the oyster farms Les helped to establish.

“The oyster farming Industry he established is today worth some $25M pa and the mussel industry of the North Island are now worth some $45M pa. The North Island marine farming Industry is estimated already to be > 50% Maori owned. Les is referred to by Maori and Pakeha alike as the ‘Grandfather of Aquaculture’.

“The Labour-Progressive Government has identified aquaculture as a priority industry because of its potential to help regional economies. I hope that Les Curtin’s enthusiasm and knowledge has been passed on to others who can realise our ambitions to make this one of New Zealand’s key transformers of our economy. Our aquaculture industry has grown from virtually nothing since the early 1960’s to be a multi-million dollar industry it is today.

“Les Curtin’s 40 years of service is recognised and appreciated by many people. He leaves the industry in a good state and with an expansive future ahead. I wish him well for a well-deserved retirement but cannot promise that he will not get the occasional phone call for advice on aquaculture issues that he is obviously so versed in. Well done Les!” Jim Anderton said.