Cawthron Centenary Series – Interview with Claire McConchie


Position at Cawthron – Project Accountant
Duration of Service – 24 Years
Hometown – Nelson

What is your history with Nelson? What do you love about living here?

I am Nelson born & bred. I love that we can be by the sea, up a mountain or by a river all within 2 hours of home. Nelson’s population has increased a lot during my life, and although it’s known as a lovely place for retirement, plenty of people choose to bring their young families up here too. I grew up in Richmond & coming to Nelson was quite rare as a child, there were a lot of orchards & paddocks between Richmond & Stoke – now housing has taken over all those spaces. I remember the Richmond bypass being built & also Queen Elizabeth Drive. Cawthron is well regarded by Nelsonians, we are fortunate to have world class scientists working here.

Tell us about your career at Cawthron.

I have had several role changes, office moves & managers in my time here. My work (finance) is very cyclical each month, but on top of that I need to be reactive to deal with incoming queries. My work involves setting up projects, monitoring budgets & ensuring clients are billed.

What do you hope lies in Cawthron’s future? Where would you like to see the organisation in 2121?

Cawthron has more than tripled in staff size in my time here, and I imagine it will still be going strong in another 100 years. I don’t think it needs to get too much bigger necessarily though, as you then risk becoming just a number in a big organisation.

What do you think are Cawthron’s major strengths?

Definitely the people who work there.

Do you have a favourite Cawthron memory to share?

We used to have Gateau Thursday when I first started, where one staff member would make morning tea for everyone. Watching Ron Fyfe heading to the cafe with his little child’s lunchbox in the shape of a blue car always makes me smile.

What hobbies do you have outside of work and is there anything people might be surprised to know about you?

I walk a lot, play squash, read (books not a kindle) & sea fishing. I also used to be a licensed real estate agent a long time ago, so I think that might surprise some of my colleagues at Cawthron.

What do you make of Thomas Cawthron’s legacy and what do you think he would make of Cawthron today?

It is an amazing legacy to leave, especially as Cawthron Institute is only a part of it. He was an extremely generous man. I think he would be proud of what we have grown into.

Any other thoughts to add?

Just that the corporate staff at Cawthron do a fantastic job of supporting the researchers to achieve all that they do, and making sure that Cawthron remains a thriving and internationally recognised research institute.