Meet the Kiwis keeping the loos clean for 130,000 people

Gary Sanders heads the cleaning crew at Fieldays.

Keeping Fieldays’ 180 toilets clean is not the most glamorous job at the largest agricultural event in the Southern Hemisphere.

But with 130,000 visitors expected to pass through the gates of Mystery Creek over four days from Wednesday, it is an essential part of the event’s success.

Heading the team of 12 that keep the toilets spotless is OCS specialist services manager Gary Sanders.

Over the course of Fieldays, he and his crew will be stocking and replenishing more than four kilometres of toilet paper and four million paper towels.

Their day starts at 6.30am and finishes at 5.30pm. Then the night crew of 10 takes over, working to 1.30am. Two of the 12 also work as “floaters”, which cover emergency cleans and staff on breaks.

Sanders said people do not realise how much work occurs behind the scenes.

Assisting the night crew this year are 30 school age volunteers from Fairfield College and Ngaruawahia High School. 

The cleaners’ biggest challenge is trying to get in and clean the toilets during the day event because there are so many people queuing up to use the facilities.

“The toilets really do get a lot of traffic through them and generally we have cleaners on site all of the time, and generally we’ll see a mess before they do.”

But people seldom lose their patience in the toilet queue. 

“The Fieldays public are probably one of the easiest to work with,” he said.

“They are really accommodating, they are really nice to our cleaners, and they understand a lot of the time that there are only ‘x’ amount of toilets and they have to wait. We like the Fieldays. It’s one of the hardest events but also one of the easiest events to operate in.

“Most people are pretty good. Honestly, in the four years that I have been there, I can’t even put a finger on a handful of complaints when you have 130,000 people going through there over four days.”

There was also plenty of rubbish bins around the venue for the public to use and these facilities were very user-friendly, he said.

“The worst part is when it’s raining and you need to get to the other end of the site, but the best part is doing our bit for Fieldays and sharing in that pride. People might not notice the work we do, but they’d notice if we weren’t doing it.”

For Sanders, managing those staff and keeping them motivated was also a test, given the sheer size of the 114-hectare site.

“Keeping them safe, well-fed and well-watered. They do dehydrate, especially if the weather can be quite warm during the day. It’s really about keeping the place topped up with toilet rolls and hand towels.”

“The cleaners, other than getting their breaks, are in the toilets virtually all day.”

The job required energy, experience and extra-comfy shoes, he said.

“People look at Fieldays and they see lots of colour and excitement, but when we look at it, we’re thinking about all the things that need to happen to keep things looking good and staying hygienic.

“It’s about anticipating what needs to happen ahead of time and making sure our high standards are always maintained.”

You can read the full Stuff article here.