by Helen Martin
Local identity Allan Robinson, who turns 74 in July, has lived in Helensville all his life. He and his six siblings grew up in Puriri Street; his father owned a taxi business and his mother worked at Parakai Boarding House.
Robbie, as everyone in Helensville knows him, attended Helensville District High School and hated every minute of it. “I was a real bad one,” he tells me, “I mowed all their roses because I hated mowing the lawns and I cut up the teachers’ straps with a knife. I didn’t want to learn and I left the day I turned 15.”
Asked what jobs he’s had over the years Robbie answers “You name it, I’ve done it”, before listing bagging goods in a local grocery store, driving milk trucks and working on the roads as examples. But with a long list of jobs to his name, you could say Robbie came into his own 15 years ago when he and his friend Ronnie Hinds took over the paper, bottle and can recycling operation in Stewart Street that had formerly been run by the Lions as a fund raiser. Calling themselves R&R Recyclers Robbie and Ronnie quickly learned the business - when the collection bins are full paper and bottles are picked up by Paper Claim and the cans go to Sims Pacific Metals. It’s an excellent system made good use of by the locals.
Ronnie was a great favorite because of his kind and generous nature and he and Robbie worked together until Ronnie passed away in June, 2014. Graham McCardle also helped out for many years. Robbie is now mourning the loss of another great worker and friend Kelvin Yorke, who passed away in June. “I’d known him for years,” Robbie tells me. “Then I saw him on the road one day and asked if he’d like to come and give me a hand. He couldn’t get down here quick enough. Everybody liked him, he was a real gentleman. He used to unload people’s cars for them and he’d drop everything to make people a cup of tea. When I went away on holiday for three weeks he looked after the place and had it spotless.”
In Robbie’s big shed at the recycling station there are newspaper clippings and awards and certificates of commendation on the walls that tell of R&R Recyclers’ great success story. Some acknowledge its contribution to the environment. One from the Rodney Council applauds the provision of “a brilliant recycling service to our community for 10 years.” Another, the Zero Hero Award, states “your work is helping Rodney achieve its goal of zero waste to landfill by 2020.”
Then there are the certificates thanking R&R for their generous donation to organisations like the Helensville Women and Family Centre, St Johns, Waimauku and Helensville Scout Groups, Helensville Playcentre, Lions Club, Westpac Rescue Helicopters, Coastguard Kaipara and Helensville Volunteer Fire Brigade. Robbie says he doesn’t have a system for deciding on recipients; it’s just something he does to help out his community.
Robbie is a common sight riding his bike around Helensville. People call him The Mayor of Helensville because he likes to know the town’s business and he likes to lobby the Council when he thinks there’s work that needs to be done. “I find out a lot of things people don’t know in this town and I’m not frightened to speak up,” he says.
According to Robbie he has a dark side. “I like to wind people up and they don’t know how to take me,” he tells me. “I like to speak my mind. I tell people that when they’ve been here as long as me they can call themselves a citizen of Helensville.” So, a naughty boy is now a naughty man? “Well, I give the police a hard time. They don’t like me riding on the footpath and they pull me up for driving too slowly in my truck.”
He’s never been married, but Robbie tells me he likes chasing women. Then he asks me out, but there’s a condition with it. “Don’t bring your husband!”
Robbie’s been talking about retiring and going to live in his motor home at South Head for a while now. We’ll believe it when we see it.