Keeping community tidy, safe

Douglas Cottages resident Russell Richards sweeps the path and surrounding areas free of autumn...
Douglas Cottages resident Russell Richards sweeps the path and surrounding areas free of autumn leaves from 10am each day. PHOTO: JULES CHIN
Leaves, leaves and more leaves.

It is the season.

For Douglas Cottages residents in Reed St, one "good samaritan" is saving the day.

A grateful resident, who wanted to remain anonymous, said fellow resident Russell Richards was out almost every day sweeping up the leaves, doing his bit to keep the footpath and driveway safe for cyclists, people on mobility scooters and those with walkers.

"Because of him our job is made a little easier.

"He is a very good neighbour to have."

Every year from mid February to about May the residents fight a losing battle with falling leaves and seed pods, they said.

"This year is no exception and has been made worse by the abundance of seed pods, which, given the chance, sprout in our garden beds.

"Piling up around doorways, around and in the drains, making it difficult for residents who don’t have the energy to get out and sweep up every day.

"He saves the council a lot of work too.

"He gets rid of the leaves so they don’t block the drain.

"He sweeps all around the area and keeps everything nice and tidy."

Mr Richards has been living at the cottages for the past two years and said he "likes to keep things tidy".

He also enjoyed working on the council garden on the property.

"[I like] to replenish what’s out there, because people go past and say ‘what lovely roses’.

"You put rose manure and blood and bone.

"We get fed but they’ve got to be fed, too."

The Oamaru-born 70-year-old said people his age were no strangers to hard work.

"When I was quite young I used to watch my dad and there was no-one to help him out, so I used to give dad a hand.

"Just tidying up things ... It gave me something to do.

"It’s a work ethic.

"A lot of people in our age group like to be doing things, don’t they?"

Mr Richards began working as a junior clerk in agriculture as a 20-year-old and also worked in the wheat belt region of Western Australia as a labourer.

He credited his father for his passion for the work he pursued.

"It’s off my father. He was in the agricultural department, that’s what really got me from a young age interested in agriculture and that type of work.

"I started working here as a junior clerk, opposite from Meeks Island & Co.

"They had the bulk bins and weighing trucks and that — right down Severn St, now where the postal services are.

"All the grains came in and I had to weigh them up as a young fella."

Mr Richards comes from a family of five, and has siblings in Oamaru, Ashburton and Mosgiel.

He returned from Perth to Oamaru in the late 1980s.

He enjoyed the pace and friendliness of the people of Oamaru.

Although retired, he liked to keep working.

"If I hadn’t have come home ... I might of got stuck over there.

"As you get older, things get a lot tougher.

"But when you come back to the slower living, it’s dead easy ... you’ve got more time.

"But when you’re a young fella in Australia, it’s just go, go, go.

"But nowadays, it’s a bit simpler.

"You’ve just got to take it a little bit quieter.

"You can still get out and sweep up the leaves and feel important.

"Saying hello when you’re working away and people say hello to you, then that’s good."

Mr Richards was looking forward to watching the Olympics this winter when there were no more leaves to sweep.