At over 1,000km north to south, and with a population of 1.2 million, there’s a lot to manage in the South Island. Luckily, in Ange Bates, Freedom Mobility has someone with energy to burn running things across Te Wai Pounamu.
Ange not only delivers modified vehicles to clients anywhere from Blenheim to Bluff, and instructs how to drive them, she also runs the back-office operations from her base in Christchurch. “I take care of pretty much everything for the Christchurch fleet,” says Ange. “One minute I’ll be organising CoFs, panel beating or ordering spare parts, some days I can just be cleaning. I might have to buy or sell vehicles. Then of course I’m away quite a bit.” Helpfully, Ange is based in the same building as Freedom Mobility’s sister company, Vehicle Adaptions. They engineer all the modifications for Freedom’s vehicles along with modifying vehicles for direct clients. The work they do is amazing, but for Ange one of the best aspects is having some assistance from Josh there, with things like maintenance or cleaning.
Even so, Ange is always busy. The delivery trips can involve nights away, and require some creative thinking when it comes to getting back home. “I’ve even rung up some ex-clients, asking if they remember me,” she says. “So I say ‘what are you doing next Wednesday’ and if it’s nothing much I might cadge a lift to the airport.” Unlike the North Island, Ange doesn’t have the option to team up with another driver and car, unless it’s somewhere local when the ever-helpful Josh might help out. Buses, trains, even Ange’s husband all get called on in her quests to get home. Then there’s the odd occasion when plans change at the last minute and she has to find somewhere to stay. “I have needed to hand-wash my clothes and dry them on a chair in the sun, but it’s all part of getting the job done,” she says. The trips also mean Ange will sometimes form a bit more of a relationship with clients than just being a driving instructor, including helping people out: “I’ve posted parcels, got the groceries, taken in washing, even fed the chooks.”
Ange’s application and resilience shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as her previous career was as an Assistant Manager and investigator for Work & Income. That was a tough job, often dealing with some troubled people. So, after 25 years, she fancied a change that would give her more autonomy and variety. With Freedom Mobility, she got both. But also the challenge of running a big territory virtually single-handed. “It almost happened by accident,” Ange recounts. “My best friend’s husband was a contractor for Freedom, and Margaret was looking for someone to help out in the South Island. So I started out contracting. Then I trained as a driving instructor in 2017 and by 2019 I’d become a full-time employee.”
After so many years of office work, Ange is really enjoying the variety and independence of her role with Freedom Mobility. And she’s a natural with clients. “No two days are the same,” she says. “And I’m always out just doing stuff. There are all sorts of challenges, and some times getting clients familiar with the modified controls takes longer than others.” This is where Ange’s years dealing with such a variety of people comes in useful. “I just love giving people back their independence,” she says. “You meet all sorts, with all sorts of stories. Including one guy who’d been off-grid in Golden Bay seemingly forever, and lived in a yurt. I don’t think he’d been off his section in years. Despite that, he took to it like a duck to water and even drove me back to Nelson to catch my flight!”
So if you’re a Mainlander and need a vehicle from Freedom Mobility, as long as you’re happy to drop Ange off do feel free to pass her the chook feed.