Craig Pensini brings 25 years construction experience beachside to St. Helens on Tasmania’s north east coast.
After years dedicated to a high-pressure role in northern Queensland, Craig Pensini knew it was time for a change. So, the young family took a leap and landed by the beach in his wife Karlee’s former hometown of St. Helens, on Tasmania’s idyllic north east coast.
When the Pensini family relocated to St. Helens in 2018 with two young children, it was a monumental move. Settling into a small town of some 2,000 people felt a long way from Townsville life, where the population is near 200,000. The semi-rural town is a two-hour drive from Launceston and about three hours from Hobart.
“Some of the locations where we are building are just incredible. It feels like we are on holiday every day. We’re working on an architectural rammed-earth house at The Gardens, part of the Bay of Fires, and it’s just stunning,” describes Craig of a stretch of beaches named by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 regions in the world.
The Pensini family moved to be closer to Karlee’s family who have lived in St Helens for 35 years. When she moved interstate, the mother of two never anticipated returning to her north east home. It seems that it is not just the Pensini family that are calling St. Helens home in recent times, though.
“Most of our building clients, maybe 70 per cent, are from mainland Australia. They come down for a holiday and just fall in love with the place. The population here is growing, with lots of young people and families settling here,” he adds.
Before the interstate move, Craig did his research. He knew that a new NRMA Caravan Park was under construction – an ideal opportunity to work locally and get familiar with the community. Working on the cabins and apartments during his first six months allowed him to meet local plumbers, electricians and other tradespeople who he has later relied upon as sub-contractors.
“I started Pensini Constructions shortly after, advertising to put guys on straight away,” explains Craig. “The majority of our work is building new houses all round town and I couldn’t have asked for a better two and a half years in business. It’s been really interesting because up in Queensland the construction focus was around cyclone protection, and now I concentrate on bush fire risk and keeping houses warmer rather than cool.”
The son of a cane farmer, Craig moved into the building industry as soon as he left school. He loves working with his hands, a passion that appears to have been passed on to the next generation; his son often asking to help out.
“Just try and stop him!” Craig jokes about his six-year-old son. “He gets the hammer out and bashes things, pulls screws out and generally gets in the way. I did the same with my Dad. Since moving we get to spend so much more time with the family. Our son and daughter are into soccer, AFL football, dancing and more. Up in Townsville you felt like just a number, but here, everyone knows each other. It’s similar to the small town I grew up in and now my kids are enjoying the same upbringing.”
Craig describes St. Helens as a place where cars stop at intersections and wave on pedestrians. People chat on the street and there are no parking metres to tend to. Known as the game fishing capital of Tasmania, when the tools are down Craig enjoys fishing in the bay with his family.
“We love going beach fishing. There’s plenty of flathead and whiting about, and the next plan might be to save up for a little boat. We just love being outside. We’ve also started exploring the new St. Helens mountain biking trails that draw so many to town,” adds Craig.
Craig now has two carpenters and a labourer under his wing, with a mature-aged apprentice soon to commence work with Pensini Constructions. He also has a swathe of contractors on the books, with consistent work providing his crew up to six days per week if they want it.
“Some are part time and some are full time. That’s the laid-back nature of the town,” explains Craig. “They work when they need to, so they don’t tend to put pressure on me to give them work daily. They’re just great to work with. Every one of my trades goes out of their way to go the extra mile – it’s how people are here. If you see someone who needs a hand, you just help out. The friendliness of the area has made it so easy to make new connections and feel at home right away.”
Currently, there isn’t enough hours in the day for Craig to be on the tools and complete office work. However, he enjoys the opportunity to work on building sites when he can. They have come a long way from the family living in a shed belonging to Karlee’s brother for the first twelve months here.
“Now that the business is running smoothly, we have plans to explore more of Tasmania. There is still so much we haven’t seen, so we’re keen to get a campervan and explore out west, particularly,” says Craig. “We just couldn’t be happier here.”
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