Taylor, Trevor Herbert & Kathryn Claudette Interview
Today is the 30th July 2018. I’m interviewing Trevor and Kathryn Taylor of Havelock North; and Trevor, would you like to tell us something about the life and times of your family? Thank you.
My grandparents emigrated to New Zealand from England … from Manchester … in 1895 and settled in Hastings. My grandfather, George, got employment in the orcharding industry and worked for the Frimley Canning Company of [in] its time, which was about the turn of the century.
In 1905 that company got wound up and they subdivided their orchards and my grandfather purchased ten acres in Ikanui Road. It was predominantly William Bon Chrétien pears that were for canning, and I understand that the orchards that were planted by the canning company on the hospital side of Omahu Road – they had, I think, ten rows of Golden Queen peaches which were a mile long, so it was called the Golden Mile. On the other side of Omahu Road was where they planted up a fairly large area of William Bon Chrétien pears, and I think from memory there were possibly about ten families that actually purchased their own areas of about ten acres each in that Frimley area.
My grandparents had three sons, of which my father, H E … Herbert Edward, but known as Todd Taylor … was the eldest, and his two brothers were Alex and Colin. They were a little bit younger than my father. Unfortunately my grandfather, George, whom I never met, passed away at fifty-three years of age and my father left school at thirteen years of age to go and manage the family orchard. My grandmother, Sarah Ethel, was quite a slight-built woman, and I don’t think was probably ever able or physically capable of working in the orchard.
It’s quite unbelievable to think back as to what my father would have done at that age. The orchard had a spray shed where they mixed the sprays of the day, which were basically bluestone, and lime sulphur, and arsenic …
Arsenate of lead.
… [chuckle] and they pumped it through buried pipes and there were these risers at certain trees. And they would drag a heavy hose and attach it to the tap [at] that riser, and hand spray an area of about sixteen trees; and then disconnect and drag that hose along to the next connection point and do another sixteen trees. Physically it must have been, you know, unbelievably hard work.
Well at that point they really didn’t have very sophisticated wet gear either, they just wore oilskins.
[Chuckle] Well as [when] we were younger, they had a steel-wheeled tractor on the orchard and a sprayer that my father and the orchard hand stood on, a platform at the rear end with hand guns, and yes, oilskins. And we would be pulled out of bed at five o’clock in the morning to drive the tractor; we were probably nine, ten years of age, and the mask we had was a piece of material torn from an old sheet and with two eye holes, and straight around the back of your head [chuckle] as a mask. The other thing was, which wasn’t very PC, [politically correct] was that every now and again my father would be knocked off the platform by a low branch, and with us looking only straight ahead we wouldn’t know that he’d been knocked off; to tell us he would give us a squirt with the spray gun. [Chuckles] Don’t think you’d get away with that today.
So we grew up on this orchard, pre any sort of mechanisation. All the fruit was hand picked into wooden cases that were stacked beneath the trees, and then throughout the day, or the end of the day, the tractor would pull a trailer; you’d stack these cases of fruit onto the trailer, take them up to the packing shed, hand stack them at the end of a grader, and then in the evening the fruit would be tipped into the grader and graded, and the packing would be done. And it was just physically hard work.
The pruning in the winter was with big tarpaulins … two tarpaulins … one each side of the tree, joined and touching. And they would prune; the prunings would drop down into these tarpaulins, then they would roll from one end over, and then pull it up [?] and roll it off onto the trailer.
Never seen that done before.
Yes. And then the trailer’d be taken to the fire stack, and then a hand crank would wind up the tilt of the trailer, and then they’d physically pull it off the trailer as the tractor drove forward. It was just physically incredibly hard work.
Trevor, going back to your school days, would you have gone to Twyford School?
No. No – I started for about, I think only three months or something, at Mahora Primary School and then we went to the new Frimley School. So both [myself and] my brother, Brian, who’s fourteen months older than myself, went to that school. So I should go back a bit – my father married Lyndal Taylor, and they also had three sons. So three sons from three sons. So Graham was my eldest brother, three years older than I; Brian, fourteen months older than myself; and I was the youngest. Graham went to Raureka School, and Brian and I did a small stint at Mahora – he did a year and I did three months, and then Frimley opened as a brand new school. From there we went to … first year that Hastings Intermediate opened, and then on to Hastings Boys’ High School. When you had a new school in those days, the grounds were prepared by the local parents or fathers of the children at that school; so one of the other local fruit growers, Ian Robertson from Bute Orchard in Pakowhai Road, and my father cultivated and did all the grounds for Frimley School. Yes. And they used to have these gala days – regularly have gala days – which were quite fun with raffles and different things.
We grew up in an era when the orcharding Hastings was all family owned. I don’t know how many, but probably several hundred families who owned orchards, and there was a great community amongst all the growers and the families. We didn’t have TV; I think I first saw TV when I was about sixteen years of age. But fruit growers’ picnics, and fishing trips and things were incredibly well supported, so you had friendship amongst the growers and their families.
One of the amazing things was that most of the orchards were between five and ten acres in size and that was enough to sustain a family. That was the key to it – the family worked it.
Yes, well I think if you go back through the thirties, the forties and the fifties, it was actually quite hard. I think the orchards became quite profitable, or more profitable, probably in the sixties, and really … certainly after the formation of the New Zealand Apple & Pear Marketing Board; and they coordinated the marketing of apples and pears. I can recall looking at ledgers that my father had where they would send, you know, fifty cases of fruit away somewhere, and they would be like … one shilling and nine pence [1/9d] per case or whatever; so they were absolute price takers in those days. So the original formation of the Apple & Pear Marketing Board was a wonderful thing for the fruit growing industry, and obviously over a period of time, got to the point where it’d achieved, I think, everything that it could achieve. And subsequently to that we’ve moved on into a more open market situation.
Did you play any sports?
My brother Brian and I were mad keen sportspeople. To go back a step, we used to work incredibly hard even as young people, ten year old plus; we would be down the orchard at the end of every school day helping our father. In the summer it was every weekend. But, we were always allowed time for our sport. So Brian and I played right through school, the two sports that were the most popular, which was cricket in the summer and rugby in the winter. And we probably both achieved quite well in our sporting careers making the First XIs and First XVs of those three schools that we went to. Brian in particular was a very, very good cricketer, which followed on from my mother’s father; he was a particularly good cricketer who got chosen to represent New Zealand on a tour of England. But unfortunately he got … I think it was hepatitis or something … just prior to them going – which would’ve been a ship voyage to England – and had to pull out. But he had many, many sporting records in cricket, with Auckland and Canterbury in particular. So yes, we were great … we were very, very keen sportspeople.
Your father also was a good community worker, especially with St John, wasn’t he?
He was indeed. In his younger years he went through the Brigade side, and every Saturday he was on the side in a rugby game with his box of tricks, in the days when they were allowed to run on to the field. [Chuckle] But he also got very involved in the governance side, and in fact into the … I think it’s called Priory Chapter. And in actual fact my father was knighted; he was a Knight of the Garter of St John of Jerusalem I think – something like that. And so that was a really very high achievement for him. He was also a Commissioner for St John so he was in charge of Ruatoria down to the Wairarapa – nice big area. For a number of years he was involved with that. He was also very involved in Freemasonry, and was also quite high up in that, which was Lodge Haeata. That was a very important part of his life. I think from [in] hindsight, it’s probably quite a lonely job. In the winter there would only be one other worker on the orchard, on ten acres; and so they did all the work that needed to be done on that orchard, and extra people really just came into the orchard for picking, for harvesting and the packing; but the rest of the year [he] basically worked on his own. So I think the involvement in St John and the involvement in Lodge filled a great part of his life. He was also very involved in St Matthew’s Church; in fact we were brought up in the church, and for some three or four years I think it was, all the members of our family belonged to the church choir. [Chuckle]
That’s quite unique, really.
It was, actually, [chuckle] yes.
And have you still maintained that special singing voice of yours?
No. No. Something’s happened to that. [Chuckles] I don’t know what it was.
Grew out of it?
Yes. My brother, Graham – when he left school he went and worked on the family orchard; and my brother, Brian, went off to Otago University. He got a mining degree and then went to Chile, into the Anaconda Copper Mine which is the largest open cast mine in the world. He was the youngest shift foreman ever employed; they were mainly Americans. At twenty-six years of age he was a shift foreman. Prior to going there he got sent to London to the Berlitz School of Languages, and in three weeks he came out of that speaking Spanish. They said it was brain washing.
Is that right? That’s incredible, isn’t it?
They just put earphones on them, and they just went for some fifteen hours a day, because in Chile it’s all Spanish spoken, so he had to know that to instruct his shift. So he was there for a few years until President Allende, who was a leftist leaning … you’d call him a dictator I guess … got into power and immediately kicked all the Americans out of Chile and nationalised the copper mine. So then he moved up to New York and got a job with one of the investment bank[s] that were financing mining operations round the world.
I left Hastings Boys’ High School; I went and did a wool course at Massey University, and then I spent a bit of time doing some sheep classing around New Zealand, and working for Tucker Wool Scouring at Whakatu. And then [a] couple of years later I went overseas and did my OE [overseas experience] for a couple of years. Primarily I worked on a rather large cropping property down in the south of England and … earn some money and then take off to Europe, spend it all and go back and earn some more. [Chuckle] Yes. So when I returned home, Graham had moved on from working for the family orchard to do his own thing. And my father made this call to me in England – would I come home, because he needed someone to help him. [Chuckle] And I made a mistake, I did come home. [Chuckle] And I only lasted about two years working for my father, and then I needed to move on.
Then [I] purchased a property in Ngatarawa, and planted the first orchard out in that area. Subsequently I purchased additional land and planted quite a large area of asparagus; I had sixty acres of asparagus, and then with about five other asparagus growers we formed Grower Canneries Limited. I continued to expand my cropping operation to a couple of hundred acres of primarily vegetables which I grew; and then I started transporting those around the North Island to the markets. Back in the seventies and eighties most fruit and produce for New Zealand consumption was sold through the auction floors; they were virtually in every town and city in the country. So I would regularly carry produce to Rotorua, Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland markets, and do that a couple of times a week, and still work in the paddock. I think I did eleven years of seven days a week, fifty-two weeks of the year, and took maybe [a] couple of weekends off and maybe a week, for holidays. In the end that does catch up, and I guess that it’s the reason that my marriage broke up – that’s just the pressure that goes on and that. By that time I had three children, and …
What were their names?
Stewart’s the eldest son; Anthea, daughter; and then Logan, my younger son.
And the two boys are working with you?
They are now.
Isn’t that wonderful?
Oh, it’s fantastic. And I feel very privileged that how my business has developed from the days of being a grower into what I’m doing today, that I have two sons that are interested in being involved with what we do; which means that I have stayed involved, and I’ve never had to make that decision of, ‘When do I stop work? When do I sell?’ Because I think that what we’ve set up now is inter-generational, and yet they bring skills that I don’t have. Their knowledge of technology is absolutely vital running a business today, and we didn’t grow up understanding computers and the technology. And some older people have picked that up really, really well, but they have knowledge that … yeah, I just do not have. I wouldn’t like to be running my business on my own without that support – it would be incredibly difficult.
Now just going back to your first wife. Her full name was ..?
She was Diane Brooking; she came from Gisborne. I met her here in Hastings just before I went overseas on my OE, and she had planned to travel at the same time. So we spent quite a bit of time together in Europe, and on our return we married and had our three children. And I’d moved into my orcharding, cropping operations.
But ‘bout what time was that, that you dropped off the asparagus and the …
Portsmouth Road – that would’ve been the seventies?
I think maybe early eighties – ‘81 or ‘82. I had a very large crop failure. I had something like sixty, eighty acres of export squash. This is the very early days of squash being grown for export; I was probably one of the very earliest. But we lost the whole crop through a chemical residue that was in the ground from a previous maize crop. We didn’t understand that that weed spray that was used on the maize would stay in the ground and affect the squash. So it germinated, but then would not grow on. And that forced us to actually sell the orchard property; so pretty tough times. And that’s all at the time when my marriage broke up. [Speaking together]
It was the orchard property at …that was Ngatarawa?
That was Ngatarawa.
It’s something we always checked, because cucurbits are one of the few things that show up.
But it shows it up after they’ve struck – too late to replant.
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. No, they were quite tough times … quite tough times, then. But however – I’ve always been able to get myself you know, up again, and have another go.
So I had been involved in quite a bit of transport by that stage, with my other crops. And first of all I got head hunted by Freightways who’d bought a local company called Produce Freighters, who were transporting fresh produce to the markets that I had been going to with my own. And they asked me if I would manage that business for them; and I had a couple of trucks still at that stage, so they went into that business and I took over that management. When we started they had eight vehicles, and I think I stayed with them for three years, and when I finished they had twenty-six units, and they were all involved just with produce transport throughout the North Island. It was the days prior to the de-licensing of the road transport industry, and this was one of the very very few companies in the country that had licences to be able to carry produce throughout the North Island, and do some backloading. And we were able to backload with the likes of machinery and plastics and one or two other things. So it was quite a unique situation, and it was quite a challenge; but once again it was seven days a week, because every Sunday you loaded produce trucks for the Monday markets. [Chuckle] There was no spell in it.
When I was working for Produce Freighters I was responsible for bringing some new ways of handling produce into the transport operation. When I first took it over everything was hand loaded on to the trucks and trailers, and then at the markets it was subsequently hand unloaded. So I introduced CHEP pallets into the operation, where everything in our depot was palletised and then forklifted on to the trucks.
Then the next thing I introduced was the curtain sider units into New Zealand. They had never been here before but I had seen them operating in Europe, so I went to the Freightways senior management, and I said that we need these curtain siders for this operation because it’s palletised; we’re going to various drop off points through the journey. And so they organised to get them some curtaining sent in from Europe, and we got a company in Rotorua called Steel Brothers who were trailer manufacturers, to actually manufacture those curtain siders; and they were the first ones on the road in New Zealand. So I guess part of my entrepreneurial [chuckle] activities have been you know, that type of thing; I guess always looking at better ways to do things. I [It] was proven several times that it wasn’t the right way. [Chuckle] We certainly made some mistakes, but we also made some beneficial things as time went on.
After I left Produce Freighters I went and spent a couple of years with Bushett’s Transport in Waipukurau, with Les Bushett; and basically just set up a freight arm for them; they were stock transporters. And the first thing that I managed to acquire was the transport of the peas for Unilever, who were still processing peas ex the paddock back in those days. So ran that for a couple of years and we set up a new company called Bushett Freight & Storage. After a couple of years Les decided that he no longer needed to be involved with that; and so Kathryn and I were together at that stage, and Kathryn stepped in with some help and we purchased that business.
Okay, well at this point then – how did you meet Trevor, Kathryn? And would you like to tell us about your family … where you grew up?
Kathryn: So you want me to go right back to the …
Well my grandparents came out from England in – I think it was about 1907. And my grandfather, Charles Winstone, was a stockman, and he ran stock in Pakowhai Road. He was very stro[ng] – big man, one of those big stockmen. And he had with him this gorgeous little lady called Emily who was English, and really didn’t know what had hit her when she came to Hawke’s Bay, and the life that was here that she found herself involved with. They’d come out on a boat together, my grandpa with his brother; I just can’t recall his name, but my grandfather had an argument with his brother on the way out, and I don’t think they ever spoke to each other again. But the brother went up and set up Winstones in Auckland, so we’ve got an arm of the family up there who didn’t really want to have anything to do with us.
Anyway, Grandpa came down to Hawke’s Bay and was a stock man, and worked down Pakowhai Road as I said – I don’t know where; and I wasn’t of course, round then. My grandmother had a daughter called Rosemary, who was about seven years old, who came out with them on the boat, and then after they were here they had two further children – my mother, Kathryn, and my uncle, Antony. My grandmother used to write poetry, and really never adjusted to the life here in New Zealand; and so just before the war she took Rosemary and Mum’s brother back to England, and she never ever returned to New Zealand because war broke out. And I’ve got many, many letters that she wrote to my mother, but she never made it back to New Zealand. She died, I think, in mid-1940s … ‘bout 1944. So she left Mum here with my grandfather. And my uncle, Antony, went on to set up a jewellers shop in the Burlington Arcade in London, and my aunty Rosemary – she was on the stage, and absolutely beautiful; and we’ve got a number of photos of her in the hallway down here. I think that Trevor wonders where they’ve come from. She married a doctor and settled in County Wicklow in Ireland. And she came out for a visit to see my mother in the 1960s, but that was the only time that we ever saw her. I never saw her again; she went back to Ireland then.
And my uncle made the most beautiful jewellery, so I’ve got lovely pieces of jewellery which he sent out to my mother, and she of course, handed them on to we girls. So that was my grandparents.
My mother met my father, Claud Ingram … not quite sure when, but my brother was born in 1931 … my brother, Rex Ingram; so it must’ve been around the 1930s. And my mother was a devout Catholic, and my father, Claud, came from stock that was Church of England and very anti-Catholic; so it wasn’t welcome as a union. And I understand, although I’m not quite sure whether this is right, that my Mum and Dad, Claud and Kathryn, married when they were nineteen. But they never told their parents and they went back and lived in their homes, pretending that they weren’t married. But that’s unofficial – I don’t know whether it’s right or not, but it’s a good story, anyway.
But anyway, they met when they … they used to love playing the piano; my father was a great pianist, and my mother; and so they used to play duets together, and that’s how they met. My brother was born in 1931 and he’s still alive, he’s going so well. Then my sister came along, Rosemary – I think it must’ve been just before the war. And I was born after the war in 1946, so there was eight years between all [each] of us; sixteen years between my brother and I.
Now my father worked in FL Bone’s. He started work I think for Charlie Bone, the plumber, but then he went in and worked with FL Bone’s as their accountant. And he worked there for the whole of his life, and at the age of fifty-five he was taken out from his work, almost, ‘cause he just collapsed; and died six months later. This was in 1965, and they didn’t know what was the matter with him. He’d been ill for months before, but I was pretty young at that stage – I was only about nineteen, I think, and I wasn’t really aware. But he used to hang off the doorways in pain, and so we knew that things weren’t right. His eyes used to stream; but he worked, and he worked, and he worked. He had that work ethic. He used to sit in the desk in FL Bone’s there; I went and worked in the holidays with him, and yes, he was a very hard working man, and died at the age of fifty-five, which was far too young when I think back now. It seemed old when I was young but it was far too young.
My mother was a very vivacious person, and loved helping people; loved being around people; loved helping Dad with whatever Dad was doing. And Dad was very involved with cricket in the Cricket Association here. And so they enjoyed playing cards, and that was the way they spent their weekends – playing cards with friends around the corner, sort of thing. And then Mum was also involved with the St Vincent de Paul [Society], and she did a lot of charity work with them and used to be in there all the time. And I can remember as a little girl that I’d go with her, and hop in the bins and play around there while she was organising stuff that was bought in for St Vincent de Paul. And she would take a lot of stuff out to the marae at Te Aute, and I would go with her and she’d have jumble sales and she’d raise money for St Vincent de Paul that way. So … lot of good; Mum did so much good around the district. She used to be a hospital visitor. And she used to walk everywhere, but she always used to complain about her sciatic nerve … pain down her sciatic nerve, which she unfortunately passed on to me, [chuckle] and after I got it, realised what she used to talk about when she said that. She died very suddenly in Dr Curtis’ surgery when she was sixty-eight. She had angina, and I thought that when you had angina you could get treatment for it like we do these days. And as far as I was concerned she was far too young to have died from that, in the doctor’s surgery where he could help. And so that was a terrible shock. All right; so that’s my background.
Did you play any sport when you went to school?
Yes. I went to St Joseph’s School and then on to St Joseph’s High School, and I used to play netball; and I used to swim – I used to do backstroke. And Trevor might not believe me. So I enjoyed school, and while I was at school I had a teacher called Sister Philippa, who taught me shorthand [and] typing. And I just loved it, so when I’d finished my schooling in 1962 I decided that I wanted to go to Auckland and be a teacher. Now in those days you actually didn’t go away to Auckland when you were about seventeen years old and train to be a school teacher. My sister had worked in FL Bone’s with my father in the office there, and he wanted me to go and work in the office at that stage. But I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to carry on with what I learnt at school, ‘cause I really loved that. So I went up to Auckland and I trained to be a commercial teacher. So I spent three years training up there, and my parents were not very happy about that. But however, I did it, because I was determined.
And then I came out and I went to Hastings Girls’ High School in 1965 as a probationary assistant. And I lived at home … returned home … to Fitzroy Avenue, which was just along the road from where my grandpa lived, and had lived all his life. And so I taught as a probationary assistant for a year at Hastings Girls’ High School. And then my father died in 1965 as I said; and then in 1966 I married David Bone who I’d known for ages. I’d met him I think at the dances in Napier – what was that called?
Trevor: Top Hat.
Kathryn: Top Hat – that’s right, at the Top Hat. And that’s where you went in those days to meet people. Everybody loved going to the Top Hat on a Saturday night. And I used to go across there, sometimes catch the train, and we had great times. So that’s where I met him, and I married him in 1966. We had three children.
Was he the landscape gardener?
David was the landscape designer.
So did you live in Selwyn Road at one … down …
That’s right. We built a beautiful wooded house, yes; it had all the trees. We bought that section from Mr Whitby who was the editor of the Hawke’s Bay … yes, the Hawke’s Bay Herald Tribune. And we bought that section – he sold it to us because he thought that because David was a landscaper he would look after the gums up there. And it’s still very gum today up there – there’s lots of gums; they’re still standing. Some have been chopped down, but the actual house site … and I’ve got a photo of that house, of course … it was beautiful, and it made a feature in the newspaper.
So we had three children. My oldest was Danielle; and Kristin; and my son was born in 1974, Brook.
Are they all local?
Kristin lives in Maraekakaho, and she and her husband John own Wheels Plus which is [a] very successful business selling wheels. My daughter, Danielle, is married to David Chamberlain; they live in Wellington, and he’s an actuary. They’ve got three girls who are doing very well – one’s just finishing off her training as an architect, and the other is … well, she’s gone to medical school, but we’re not quite sure what line she’s going to follow. And Rosa’s still at school. And Brook has just got a little boy, Sol. He lives in Auckland and he works with Brian Gaynor in finance … Milford Asset Management. So they’ve all done very well. And it’s really lovely when I think about my three children and Trevor’s three children – we’ve got a blended family and they all get on so well. And for all these years … I think that Trevor and I’ve probably been together for over thirty years now. It was about 1983, ‘84 that we got together; we’d always sort of known each other – grown up here, and then David did some landscaping for Trevor. And I just … you know, this is how you sort of got to know people generally in the district. So Trevor and I eventually ended up getting together, and we’ve had a great life really, haven’t we? Yeah …
Isn’t that a wonderful story?
Yes. It is a lovely story.
It is, it’s neat.
Trevor: And now thirteen grandchildren.
Kathryn: It is lovely, because … sort of you’re getting an inter-generational thing here, but Stewart and my son, Brook, are the same age, virtually. They went through Hastings Boys’ High School together and so Brook has got a financial interest – apart from being one of our children – he’s also invested into Elwood Road Holdings, which Trevor hasn’t even spoken about yet.
So that is just so good, because sometimes blended families don’t always work out well; but ours have. And I have had a wonderful life with Trevor.
And so I think it’s time for him to probably carry on with … how we became …
[Speaking together] And say what he’s been doing for thirty years?
Kathryn: Yes. Because it’s pretty important; what he did is an absolute credit to him. I might be a bit biased here, but he was … after our marriages broke up, we definitely hit rock bottom financially, didn’t we?
Trevor: Mmm, for a start …
Kathryn: And we had nothing. And so we built it up together. Yes, I don’t know how you want to … what you want to say [cough] from here on.
Trevor: Well I started concentrating on transport, and we built up a fleet of trucks under the name of THT Road Freighters, and I think we had twenty-five units. And we built up, I think, a very good name … we had a reputation for what we were doing. But we had a significant part of that business with Carter Holt Harvey, and we were doing all their transport of their packaging out of Hastings; they had a significant production facility here in Hastings where they did apple cartons and kiwifruit cartons in particular. They did other packaging for meat works etcetera; but that was a significant part, and we used to handle all that, with the kiwifruit packaging [in] particular going north, primarily into the Bay of Plenty. But we used to go as far north as North Auckland, and down to Nelson and that, but the majority of it went up into the Bay of Plenty. And in transport it’s vital that you actually can put forward and backloads together; and so we built up a network of also, all their Carter Holt timber operations in the central North Island in Rotorua, Taupō, Putāruru, Tokoroa and Hamilton. And we were their transport operator for all that timber coming down into Hawke’s Bay or further south.
But then that company in its wisdom, decided to go for a single national provider, and whilst we joined with two or three other regional companies to tender for the work, we missed out to a large national company. And virtually overnight we lost two thirds of our work. So in those days I think our turnover was around about $3-$4million per annum, and we lost about $3 million.
And you just cannot replace that. So I was forced to wind up THT Road Freight; but fortunately I had purchased part of the Tomoana Meat Works when it closed down in 1995, and in conjunction with Heinz Wattie we purchased part of that site. A significant part of our business was in storage … warehousing and storage … and that was in a separate company so that when we wound up the transport company it did not affect the property company. We subsequently built up a very close relationship with Heinz Wattie, and from 1996 through to 2003 we developed some fifty-five thousand square metres of warehousing, which became the Heinz Wattie national distribution centre. We subsequently purchased additional land from Heinz Wattie that they weren’t using on the Tomoana site, and started building additional warehousing, both for our own use and for other tenants. In 2006 I had an opportunity to sell that facility to a company called National Property Trust … a listed property trust … which I did. And then in my wisdom I went and [chuckle] purchased an additional sixteen hectares on our boundary, and I then proceeded … oh, bare land … and I then proceeded to have that re-zoned for a food industry hub. It took me six years to get that through Council and get the zoning done.
And at the same time that this was going on we started building up our transport operation again, because my eldest son Stewart had finished at university and came back to work in the business and he was very keen to get involved in the growth of that. Since 2012 when we got the re-zoning through for the food hub, we’ve now built some $50 million worth of various factories and facilities on that site, and that’s about half developed now.
We’ve also built our transport fleet up to seventy-five trucks working throughout the North Island primarily, but we do operate in and out of the South Island; and we manage for our third party warehousing, some twelve thousand square metres of warehouse space. Currently about a hundred and ten people on our payroll, so it has become quite a significant operation in its own right.
What does the word logistics mean?
Well basically, any manufacturer, from the end of its manufacturing line to the point where that product, whatever it is, gets to the end user, be either retail or business to business – that’s all logistics. So it’s how it’s handled from the end through warehousing, through transport, shipping, whether it be …
So that’s part of your operation?
That’s what we call logistics. And then third party managed warehousing is where you provide warehouse space for other companies who are manufacturing or importing product, and they need to hold it before it goes on to its end user. So that’s third party managed warehousing. And that part is growing significantly in New Zealand, and across the western world, and even things like e-commerce and all that, are changing this dramatically; you’ve got these big companies like Amazon and Ali Baba and that, who put stuff and distribute it from warehouses direct to the retailer. It’s significant growth.
It must be very interesting to be part of that phenomenon.
Oh, it’s exciting.
Someone must have fairly good control of what’s happening, otherwise [chuckle] you could have chaos.
Trevor: [Chuckle] We hope we have. We’ve built up a very, very strong management team now within the company, so that there are people who have specific roles either in the transport side, or the warehousing side, or the property side. Because you get to this point in your businesses where you’ve got to step outside the day to day activities of managing the staff and the clients’ needs on a daily basis, and manage it from the bigger perspective; and that’s the governance part of it. So you’ve got to work on the business, not in the business, you know. Both Stewart and I … oh, and Logan … we’ve been through Icehouse management courses, where they give you a much broader perspective of how you can grow your business. We feel that not enough businesses in New Zealand are grown to their greatest ability. Too many people get to the stage where they have a successful business and then they decide to retire. So they sell it; then they go for the three Bs, as they say – the beach, the bach and the BMW. I don’t know what cars they buy today, but [chuckle] basically at a point where they could grow it. And that’s one of New Zealand’s problems, that we don’t have enough significant sized businesses, and inter-generational.
One thing we did do two years ago – our property side is in a separate company called Elwood Road Holdings Limited, whereas the logistics company is Tomoana Warehousing Limited. But Elwood Road Holdings Limited, of which we hold seventy-five percent interest in it – we brought in one of the local iwi as an equity partner, and they bought in a twenty-five percent stake two years ago. We see relationships going forward with the iwi being really, really important. We must, you know, work closer with them as time goes on; they have a lot of ability, and they have significant financial funding through their settlements, and I think it’s quite ideal for them to be able to partner up with companies that are quite successful and still growing, and also are inter-generational. That’s what they’re looking for as long term investors, and so that’s where I basically have been spending my last few years; it’s an inter-generational activity that I’m involved with. We ourselves are pretty comfortable now, we don’t have great needs in many ways.
Just one other branch of your business, and that is the water export …
Yeah. A company called New Zealand Miracle Water, and they are tenants on the Food Hub as we call it; however, we are in a joint venture with them – a fifty-fifty joint venture. It’s a Chinese principal, but he is [a] New Zealand resident, but he is spending a lot of his time in China, building the market. There’s a lot of fallacy about water exporting … that it turns water into gold; but it doesn’t actually work that way. It’s an incredibly hard business to establish a name for your brand overseas; you’re competing against some of the biggest companies in the world, you know, out of France, and Fiji and other places that have got branding. So we went into a joint venture with them. We’re sitting over the confined aquifer of the Heretaunga Plains – it’s artesian, which means it’s under pressure when it comes. And it’s secured by way of the layers above … protects it from any contamination.
I believe that there are vast volumes of water that are untapped; and historically, when I look at where the major drawings of water for the Heretaunga Plains and the factories over the years in the time that I’ve been here – many of which have closed down and are no longer taking the water; the likes of Leopard Breweries, Unilever, Tomoana Meat Works, Whakatu Meat Works, Tucker Wool Scour, Louis Woods Wool Scour – they were all huge users of water and they no longer take any of that. The only one left is probably J Wattie Foods … Heinz Wattie. They’re not taking anywhere near the water that they used to. Water was often taken as a means of transporting produce down conveyor systems, like little mini rivers. It doesn’t happen like that these days, there’s better ways and cleaner ways of doing that; so water’s used at those factories basically for a bit of washing down.
One thing about a water factory is there’s no wastage; a hundred percent of the water is going into a container for human consumption. And irrespective of what we think about the exporting of water out of New Zealand, water will always be required by humans, and is getting lesser; there is more contamination round the world as time goes on. We want to export you know, hundreds of thousands of tons of milk powder and infant baby formula out of New Zealand where we’ve already taken the water out of the milk powder, and expect them to mix it with their inferior water. And we’re saying, “Why don’t we export our quality water to go alongside that infant baby formula?” And that’s really the philosophy that this company’s working on.
Kathryn: [Speaking together] And they just need a vast amount of money in that factory.
Trevor: I’d also say with regards to the water, you know, the majority of our clients locally are in this horticultural/agricultural sector, and they’re the major players around here. And we would never do anything that would impact on their ability to grow their apples, their produce, their fruit, ‘cause they’re too important to us. And so often I have to not say things [chuckle] because I realise I’m going to step on someone’s toes, you know. But you know, it’s a joint venture really, as far as you know, all businesses have to work and cooperate.
Yes. So you still have some room to expand too, by the sounds of it?
Oh yes, I haven’t finished yet.
That’s a big warehouse, isn’t it?
The Heinz Wattie National Distribution Centre is one of the largest single-roofed structures in New Zealand.
Is it all automated?
No. The issue for Heinz Wattie, ‘cause they manage it within the warehouse, is that basically canned … or not necessarily canned, there’s other food goes into pouches and things … it’s low margin, high volume; and so there’s a limit to what they can put in there from a point of robotics and automation. You know, all of that’s available around the world, but you need high value.
And of course labour is still cheaper.
Righto, so what other things can you tell me about? What do you do in your spare time?
Over the last fifteen years I’ve spent quite a lot of time with my eldest son, Stewart,involved in motor sport and rallying, and that’s rallying on gravel roads. And I started off just buying a fairly modest priced car set up for rallying, where I sat in in the co-driver’s seat while Stewart drove on his first ever rally, which scared the pants off me. And then we went on – that was in Wairarapa, and Stewart did pretty well – whatever; and then we went on and did Hawke’s Bay rally until about the second to last stage of the day when Stewart rolled the car; and I decided that was it – I was finished with rallying, ‘I’m out of here’. Until a couple of weeks later I thought, ‘It’d be better if actually I had my own car, and drove.’ [Chuckles]
So we then got two cars and I started rallying with Stewart but driving my own car, and he had his. And we went on and probably competed in something like seventy to eighty rallies each over this period of time. We got to compete in the National Rally Championship for some four or five years. That’s the highest level in New Zealand, and we slowly built our way up from older cars to the Evo 9 and Evo 10 Mitsubishis. We also went to Argentina and did a World Rally Championship round; we went to Australia and did a World Rally Championship round.
Kathryn: You did that a couple of times.
Trevor: Twice, yes. And we did about three WRC [World Rally Championship] rounds in New Zealand, until New Zealand lost hosting the rally. Stewart [cough] in particular is a very, very good driver, and he’s in the top you know, half dozen in New Zealand in ability.
I was probably one of the oldest person[s] to ever start rallying at fifty-seven, [chuckle] and I finally retired about seventy. [Chuckle] So last year I sold my Evo 10, and I thought, ‘Well, if I sell it I won’t be tempted to get back in it.’ I’ve loved that because I’ve mixed with all these young people that were in our teams and that sort of thing, and it’s been great fun and it was something I was able to do with Stewart. Logan did some rallying before he went overseas to do his OE, and he was in fact Stewart’s co-driver for a couple of years; we’ve all shared that interest.
You get a few looks – I know when I turned seventy I bought a big motorbike; [chuckle] travelled all over New Zealand.
That was more dangerous than rallying, because you get these old gentlemen who think that … go back to what they could do forty years earlier – buy a motorbike. And a lot of them fall off. [Chuckle]
And so you travel obviously, both of you?
Yeah, we have travelled quite a bit … not enough as far as I’m concerned. But Kathryn’s very comfortable here at home, so I’m probably a more enthusiastic traveller than Kathryn. But then when I can get Kathryn to some place she enjoys it when we get there. It’s the travelling; it’s the to and the from.
Kathryn: There have been a few health issues as well that’ve held things back as far as that goes.
Trevor: I went to Europe ‘bout two months ago for two weeks with Stewart, on a business trip. We went into Ireland to a place called Combilift, that makes the straddle carriers that we use; various sites, and then we went back to Germany to go through the Mercedes truck factory where they were building some of our trucks. And then we went and visited three of the big heavy haul operators in Belgium and Holland, ‘cause we’ve got into heavy haulage with our transport operation. We’ve been doing the bridge beams built by Eastbridge in Napier for the Transmission Gully. They are weighing up to fifty tons, and so we’re over a hundred tons with our full unit up; and they’re up to forty-three metres long, so it’s quite amazing. We go down and over the Saddle with that.
We’re always looking for new things, so we got into that. And we’ve just also just gone into logging, simply because logging is such a massive growth industry here on the east coast, and will continue for a number of years. And to us it’s really no different than carrying a container – it’s still a load on the back of a vehicle. But we happen to have a relationship with the Roger Dickie family, who were the main establishers of farm forestry here on the East Coast twenty-five years ago; and so those forests are now coming into maturity. So it’s new work, it’s not work that’s been taken off existing operators. And we’ve also built a relationship with that family and provide office space and facilities for them – both the logging side, and also they’re involved in importing fertiliser.
Now one thing, I was in Bill Richardson’s museum recently … didn’t see any of your trucks there?
No – they’re still working. [Chuckle]
Isn’t it amazing that one man could establish something like that?
Absolutely. Oh yes. Pity it’s so far away really, being down in Invercargill. The Road Transport Association has a function there every two years, so Stewart and I were down there at that, a year ago, I think it was.
So, what haven’t you told me?
Kathryn: Oh, gosh!
Kathryn: He’s only just skirted [chuckle] round the outside of everything, really.
Trevor: We need time to go through the archives.
Kathryn: Yeah. He hasn’t talked about the fact that he … when he … loves rallying … rallying and trucks; [chuckle] they’re in his blood. Anyway, but he had several mishaps while he was rallying, much to my … I was very upset about it. But the worst one was one day when I was … I wasn’t there, but I was following him on the internet and he seemed to just disappear out of the race. And I found out later that he’d rolled his car – or gone over a bump according to him – and he’d ended up breaking his back. He’d been whipped off to hospital; yeah, he’d broken his back. He had to go to hospital, and he said, “Look, I’m fine – I can carry on.” But they took him to hospital and checked it out; no, he’s got a broken back. So it wasn’t so bad that he had to have an operation but he wasn’t allowed to move for three weeks. So where were you for those three weeks? Stuck in …
In hell by the sounds of it! [Chuckle]
Trevor: No, I was down in Wairarapa; crossed a drain and it was just the impact. I didn’t roll it. They put me in an ambulance and they were going to take me to Palmerston North. And I was somewhere round Eketahuna – this is Saturday – I said, “No, I need to go to Masterton because I’m rallying tomorrow, so it’s not good being in Palmerston”, you see. So this ambulance they’d put me in belonged to the Palmerston area, so it had to turn round and go back and meet an ambulance from Masterton, and take me out of the Palmerston ambulance; put me in the Masterton ambulance. And I got out and I walked from that ambulance to the other one, and then I got put into Masterton … taken down to the hospital; and when I got to the hospital I wasn’t allowed to move.
Kathryn: [Speaking together] No, well they knew what was the matter with you then.
Trevor: They took me off and x-rayed me, and they said, “Well you’ve actually fractured your back.” So I stayed in Masterton Hospital for about three or four days, and then they put me in a plane and flew me to Hastings and put me into Hastings Hospital. And I must’ve been there for a few days, and then they decided that they would need to operate and put pins in, and do bone grafts, and blood transfusions and all the rest. And I was lying on my back in the hospital bed, and the surgeon said to the nurses, “Would you roll Mr Taylor over – I want to look at his back.” And I just … before the nurse could touch me … just flipped over on to my stomach. And [chuckle] he said, “You can do that?” And I said, “Well yes – I’ve been doing that ever since I had this accident”, and he said, “Well, mmm – I think you can probably mend on your own without an operation.” Which is what happened, otherwise I’d have had this massive operation. Probably it wasn’t necessary.
Might have messed you up for ever and a day.
And I’d had a compression in my back. Only problem was that I got out of hospital and went straight down to Nelson because it was the last round of the rally championship, which I’d been doing; I didn’t drive, but I could watch Stewart who was going for the Rookie of the Year prize. And whilst there I had a heart attack.
Kathryn: So that was two weeks after the back.
Trevor: So they put me into Nelson Hospital then. And all the rally team took off home, and I’m just left in Nelson Hospital on my own. And then about a day later, or two days later or something, they then flew me to Wellington where they put a stent in. And they did that in the morning; flew me from Nelson to Wellington in the morning, put the stent in, and then about three o’clock in the afternoon they came in and they said, “Oh, you can go home now.” “Oh okay – how will I go home?” And they said, “Oh. Have you got a high use card?”
Trevor: Well I didn’t know what they were talking about. So I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” They said, “Oh well, you’ll have to find your own way home.”
So that day I’d had the stent put in, and I had to get myself out to the airport and get myself a ticket and fly … so in a month, I did Masterton, Hastings, Nelson and Wellington Hospitals, and I’d never been in a hospital in my life before, ever.
Well, the good news is that you came through unscathed, though.
2006; and I’ve been really, really good ever since.
Well now, if there isn’t anything else, you know …
I think in another twenty years, no one in my family would know back to what my parents did. So I’m quite pleased to’ve done this because I’ve always thought that somewhere there needs to be some sort of record of that; because, you know, I think those pioneers that developed this area, you know – they were amazing, what they did.
But I mean, you are exactly the same – you’re a pioneer of this area too at different stages. Anyway, I’ll finish this then …
Yes. I think there’s a little bit of … there will be something left at Tomoana which will endure, it will be there for a long time. The trucks will disappear – I mean they’re just pieces of machinery to do a job; you know, you write them off at the end of the day. They’re not good investments – I’d just pass that on to anyone who really wants to know. [Chuckle] But it gets in your blood.
Well thanks, Trevor and Kathryn, for sharing your lives in Hawke’s Bay with Hawke’s Bay, because it is important that we record this, so thank you.
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper