If you’ve lived in Bellingen for any time at all you’ll know him. Possibly not by sight, but you would have heard him. “Gooday mate.” “Good on ya.” “How are ya darl?” “Behave yourself.” “How’s it going?”
Warren Weick is a local character, full of local knowledge and a love of life. He’s driven the local school bus for nearly 40 years amongst many other careers and man, can he tell a story.
We decided to get him up on his soapbox and discovered there’s no stopping him once he gets going.
Warren are you a true local?
Sure am. I was born in Bellingen Hospital in 1961, schooled at Bellingen Public and High and have worked here all of my life. I’ve lived my whole life in Gordonville.
What was it like growing up in Bellingen?
I had a great time. Certainly got up to a bit of mischief and wagged school a bit, gave the pinnies in town a run. Back then Bellingen was humming. Businesses thrived. You could get everything you needed right here- from a new car to everything for the home. There was even a black market- maybe we don’t need to go there.
Did you have many local mentors?
So many. Real salt of the earth locals who would do anything for you. Cliff Schofield, the Prestons, Carl Foster, Max Adams, Barry Keough, Wally Humphries were just some of the locals who taught me a thing or two.
Is it true your career started as a menswear connoisseur?
Mens wear, ladies wear and haberdashery. I left school at 14 and started working at the Bellingen Emporium. I’d been earmarked as a butcher but liked my fingers too much. I worked with John and Cec Hammond and some lovely local ladies, who taught me everything I know about sales. I was there for 10 years and spent my days fitting out the local blokes. Best salesman in town I reckon ha ha.
So what prompted you to change careers?
My family purchased the school bus run when I was 16 years old for $16,000. For the first few years dad was on the bus, but I was itching to get behind the wheel.
I’ve really loved the kids on the bus, connecting with parents, getting the kids home safe, watching the kids grow and knowing them as young adults. This job has meant I know so many in the community. All the kids were lovely to me. Of course there was the odd kid who gave me curry- but when I see them as an adult they say- “Thank god we had you driving the bus Warren.”
Your family were farmers originally. How was it for farmers and how is it now?
To be honest it has always been tough country. Ask any of the old farmers- the severe cold and frosts, the floods that took out whole paddocks and decimated livestock. Mind you, things are even harder now. Weeds like we never saw before now infiltrate everything. Fire weed and parramatta grass have made it tough going. These days if you plough up a field and sow corn or potatoes you’ll eventually end up with a paddock of weeds.
Lots of larger blocks have been subdivided, which I think was a good thing. Bringing more families in. But to be honest, it is only hobby farming these days.
Do you think the weed issue is due to climate change or farming practices?
Look there is no doubt the weather is changing. All the farmers know it. Maybe this is causing the weed problems. What I do know is water is our primary need- without it we have nothing. Farmers out west are shifting to Dorrigo looking for water. What we don’t need is this drilling for gas, stuffing up water supplies.
There might be a perception that farmers aren’t greenies- but we are all green to some extent. Bob Brown is a good friend of the family. Terrific guy. Last time he was in town we had a great chat which meant a lot to me.
You’ve seen a lot of Mayors. Has there been a stand-out? What would you do if you were Mayor?
Ha ha mate firstly, I would never be Mayor. But I have seen a few Mayors here. All have left their mark on our community- some better than others. I reckon we just need to talk commonsense and work together. And keep an open mind.
Mind you, if I was Mayor I would just make things work better in the community. There are too many walls put up to stop things happening, too much red tape for business and too many rules. I would let business flow and flow well for everyone. It doesn’t always seem that the rules apply to everyone fairly. If everyone is given a fair go and everyone works together, it’s like a recipe for a cake- each step is crucial for the final result.
Another problem that I can see is the price of rent and housing (even though I’m a real estate agent I can be honest about this). We need growth and the young families moving in, keeping the local business community humming. Higher rents are killing businesses. When times are tough landlords need to accommodate their tenants. Plus we need more subdivision to allow for affordable land. Without this the town won’t survive.
Too many locals are under way too much pressure. You can see it in the eyes, many people these days aren’t happy. We can do better than this. Working together to solve the problems is the way forward.
So how does this fit with your successful local real estate agency?
Look mate I’m honest. I tell it like it is and my clients are grateful for that. I know some people in Bellingen would like to close the gates. But everyone needs to remember that zoning changes and subdivisions in the past have allowed them to buy here and be part of this community. We have something very special here. But without new families moving in how will our schools and hospital survive, not to mention local businesses and all of our tradies. I want to see this place buzzing again. Community is everything.