Over the Ditch

Host: Yeeda Station

Hi my name is Luke McEwan and I am another kiwi that has jumped the ditch.

Not permanently might I add and still strongly backing anybody from New Zealand that takes on an Australian.

The reason I find myself in the lions den over here in Australia is simply because I love what the outback offers and the people it draws in. I work for Yeeda Pastoral as one of their mustering pilots but my journey to the Kimberlys started many years before and in a much different setting.

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Born and raised in Southland, bottom of NZ on a sheep and beef farm I was introduced at an early age to the concept of farming. Actually one muster at home involved myself at about 3 years old shaking a tin dog out the window of the old Landy which I dropped then immediately afterwards I followed it out also. This has left me with an ‘L’ shape scar on my forehead from the tin dog and myself reuniting on the ground.

I loved the outdoors as a kid and have never at any stage felt the need to be in or near a city. I avoided going to boarding school in the city instead taking a bus to the local school which allowed me to be home, back at the farm every night.

All this additional time at home allowed me to ride motorbikes and horses, go fishing and hunting and generally just enjoy what country living has to offer to a kid with a good imagination.

After school I went to University much to the enjoyment of my grandparents and family and completed a Bachelor of Tourism.

With my dose of city life fulfilled I went back to the country. I started driving commercial jet boats during the day and in the mornings and evenings I would head out and fly around the national park near Wanaka and Queenstown being the shooter. This was all for a company that did wild venison recovery from their helicopter and then sold the meat to an abattoir. This meat was then processed and sold all through Europe with the majority being exported to Germany.

This was a great job as I got to see some awesome sights and have a good dose of adrenline each day.

There was one problem with this job though as it gave me the bug to want to fly helicopters.

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In 2010 I obtained my commercial Helicopter licence in Wanaka, NZ.

Now in NZ there is a joke going round that every 18 year old male gets a helicopter licence for his bday. This seems true as there are twice the pilots for the total number of machines in NZ when looking for a job, especially as a new pilot. So therefore the initial reason I came to Australia more in particular WA was to find regular flying work. I found it really hard finding my first full time flying job however this taught me a lot of valuable life lessons about dealings with other people of all different natures. I would like to think that these tough times earlier on would be credited for making me the person I am today and having the ability to work in testing circumstances for even more testing people at times. One thing my parents always reminded me was to never burn your bridges you never know what you might need down the line.

After arriving in Perth with a swag, bag and no idea on stage two plans I got on a bus and headed north. Along the way I thought that if I got work I could just get of wherever was needed. This landed me in the Pilbara working for a guy doing a range of jobs. I started out on a loader with a road crew, then water cart followed by mustering on the ground with motorbikes. Eventually I got a break and got a flying gig which involved lifting a heli portable drill rig about., and over time moved into mustering and mining support work mostly things like heritage, flora and fauna surveys.

 

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After a couple of seasons in the Pilbara I headed to Canada for 6 months to look at the opportunities there. I managed to fit in a few events like the stampede etc and really enjoyed it all. But was really keen to get back to NZ as Canada was not somewhere I wanted to be permanently based.

Upon my return to NZ I completed an Agriculture Rating which allows a pilot to distribute chemical from the air with an aircraft. This along with mustering has to be my favourite sort of flying. It allows you to fly low level and doesn’t require you to be talking to passengers repeating the same facts as the last 100 scenic flights. Ag and Mustering are both challenging in their own ways its like a game where you have to either outsmart the cattle or make sure the chemical fits the block whilst finding a way to spray the block as fast as possible which can be challenging in some of the NZ hills and gullies.

The small issue with being an Ag pilot in NZ is the season only runs full noise from Oct/Nov through till April. Over the winter months the flying slows down and not too much happens.

So back to WA I head to partake in the mustering season which overlaps a little but Yeeda Pastoral Company are really good in that department and with a few phone calls here and there I manage to go back to back with the Ag and Mustering season.

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Mustering up here in the Kimberlys for Jack and Vicki Burton has been so much fun they have a really good group of people around them that makes for a heck of a good time. From the social events Yeeda organises or partakes in to the scenery and work I really think I have things worked out quite well right now. Oh and did I mention I have managed to miss the last 6 winters (if you can call a winter up here a winter).

As for my future plans who knows what will happen with farming prices looking good I can not see myself moving too far from the industries I am currently involved in.

Cheers Luke

 

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