Life-long love recognised

STRONG FAMILY BUSINESS: Wattle Range Council Australia Day Citizen of the Year Award recipient Snow Merrett and grandson Cameron Merrett working hard at the family business Merrett Logging. Picture: AMELIA PEPE.
STRONG FAMILY BUSINESS: Wattle Range Council Australia Day Citizen of the Year Award recipient Snow Merrett and grandson Cameron Merrett working hard at the family business Merrett Logging. Picture: AMELIA PEPE.

HIGHLY respected Penola community member Sydney (Snow) Merrett has been acknowledged for his hard work, persistence and passion for his town with the prestigious Wattle Range Council Australia Day Citizen of the Year Award.

Moving to the outskirts of Penola at three years of age, Mr Merrett has spent the remainder of his life living in the area.

Growing up on a farm with six sisters and two brothers, Mr Merrett attended Penola Primary School followed by Penola High School.

In the early 70s, with stock cattle prices low, Mr Merrett decided to try his hand in a profession other than farming, something which felt more rewarding.

“I opted to endeavour into a career of pine felling,” Mr Merrett said.

In September 1985 Mr Merrett started the family business, Merrett Logging.

To date, the company has awarded 10 gold watches to long serving employees, with three more to be distributed by the end of the year, including one to his grandson Mark Merrett.

The successful company has overcome many hurdles since 1985, including surviving the difficult period during the global financial crisis.

“The company stepped up operations to take on contracts offered to us by timber giant Gunns after their collapse, resulting in a business expansion,” Mr Merrett said.

Now with 19 harvesters, 14 log forwarders, 26 B-double log trucks, and 10 sub contract B-double log truck operators, the company is excelling.

“Last financial year we were $19,000 short of transporting one million tonnes for the year, so I would say the industry is still going strongly,” Mr Merrett said.

“I grabbed all my professional opportunities with both hands and I relied on customer satisfaction to keep me going.”

Mr Merrett’s sons, Stuart, John and Adam are all involved in the company as is his wife, Pat who worked in administration.

In 2013 Mr Merrett’s farming roots got the better of him, resulting in him buying land 10km from the Penola Golf Course and another piece of land located just behind his property.

“Farming has always been my passion,” Mr Merrett said.

In addition to his active professional career, Mr Merrett is known and appreciated for his outstanding fundraising efforts in the community as a significant participant and advocate for Aussie Muscle Car Run rally events, raising funds for the Leukaemia Foundation.

Mr Merrett’s monumental community fundraising achievements stemmed from Aussie Muscle Car Run event chairman Kevin May.

“Mr May had a vision for the car run after he lost a close friend to leukaemia and wanted to raise money with like minded people involved in motor sport,” Mr Merrett said.

Last year Snow and Stuart Merrett raised a phenomenal $27,223 in the seven day leisure car cruise – the largest fundraising total of any team participating.

“The car runs are great fun, everyone always has a fantastic time and cannot wait for the next one.” Mr Merrett said.

A significant volunteering effort which Mr Merrett remembers vividly, is his efforts in helping to fight the 2015 Pinery fire, where heavy machinery and operators from Merrett Logging were sent to the affected area for a month.

The fire caused extreme devastation for communities in the area, especially for farmers who lost everything.

Mr Merrett made a trip to the mid-north on December 19, 2016 to attend a BlazeAid event with some of his Aussie Muscle Car Run participants.

“You could tell the farmers were mentally destroyed, and were in dire need of someone to talk to,” Mr Merrett said.

“As soon as we returned from the Pinery area I knew we could do something more.”

Many of Merrett Logging employees offered to volunteer their time to help.

“We are all concerned about these people because we come from a small community ourselves,” he said.

Continuing his selflessness and dedication to the community, Mr Merrett helped South East Street Machines with the Put Your Hard Hats Out car rally fundraiser in 2016 helping families affected by the road tragedy which killed four South East men.

Around $20,000 was divided among the four families affected by the fatal crash at Penola and last year the South East Street Machines again donated $2000 to the Penola State Emergency Service ahead of the busy Christmas period.

“Once again this year, in collaboration with South East Street Machines, we hope to raise money to go toward a similar cause,” he said.

Looking back on all of his achievements, Mr Merrett was proud of his career saying he started with nothing.

“I grew up in a house where there was nothing but lino on the bedroom floor, everything I have, I have worked hard for,” Mr Merrett said.

“I got on with what I had to do, and made the best out of the situation.”

He said he had learned to appreciate the small things in life and having great people around him made it that much more achievable.