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‘Good attitude’ Derek’s tip for successful life


Lisa Urbani

Derek Wilson has spent most of his life in Greytown, having come to live there at the age of four, in 1949 – and he has made a huge contribution.

He has seen it grow from “a little place with two dairies and two fish and chips shops”, to a bustling hub of chic shops and eateries, voted the ‘Most beautiful small town’ in New Zealand in 2017.

“Greytown was a great place to grow up in with plenty of green spaces to play and rivers to do many things, you knew all the people and the climate in the Wairarapa is good.”

After his schooling at Greytown School and one year at Kuranui College when it opened in 1960, he became a joinery apprentice at ‘Trotman Brothers’, a Greytown building company.

By 1974, he was in business for himself in the same building where he served his time, calling his enterprise ‘Greytown Joinery’.

Later in the 1980s he moved his premises to a new building supplied by the Greytown Trust Lands – today it is well known as ‘Pete’s Joinery’.

Derek has always been community-minded. He’s been on the Trust Lands since 1979, is a life member of the Greytown Rugby Club and the South Wairarapa Working Men’s Club, and been involved on the Council of Clubs for Wairarapa Rugby Bush Union for several years.

It was little wonder then, that he was honoured by the South Wairarapa Rotary Club with a Pride of Workmanship & Community Service 2020 Award, which he said, “surprised him”.

His advice was to “do it because you enjoy it, because you want to see organisations and players surviving and growing”.

The ‘players’ in question, are the young men of the Kuranui College First XV, who Derek found great satisfaction in coaching in the 1980s.

“It was 10 years of great joy in watching and being able to be part of seeing schoolboys become men.”

He enjoyed the fundraising working bees so trips could be made to tournaments in Australia and all over New Zealand.

As someone who was in business for 27 years and employed 20 workers in his joinery factory at one time, Derek had some suggestions as to how businesses affected by covid-19 could survive.

His advice was that “being adaptable and scaling down” would help many survive the economic impact on small businesses.

He volunteers on the Greytown Cobblestones Museum committee and works as a caretaker at an early childhood centre, while still making wooden toys, barrows and trucks.

He remembers the many young men who learned the joinery trade at his factory with fondness, and said that young people today looking for work should know that a “good attitude” was always what employers were looking for.


  1. I was one of those young men given a chance by Derek and completed my trade with Him at Greytown Joinery.
    You are a good man and I thank you very much for the opportunity you gave me back in the 80’s.
    They were good times.

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