Moving to keep with the times
Mana Transport may be one of the largest moving companies operating in the South Island today, but its owners are still proud of their Porirua roots.
This year is the company’s 50th birthday but a big celebration is unlikely.
‘‘I think we’ll be watching our pennies,’’ managing director Murray Ritchie says, with a wry smile.
Mr Ritchie was part of Mana Transport’s humble beginnings in 1961. That year he, Colin Wallace and Bob Koskela conceived the business, doing vegetable runs and ferrying people and equipment to North Island skifields before a considerable contract with New Zealand Rail was secured.
‘‘The three of us had £60 each and we decided to give it a go.
‘‘We bought our first new truck in 1964 and built our own bodies for them. We were one of the first North Island operators into the South Island and there wasn’t roll-on, roll-off [ferry] back then. We had to load and unload containers.
‘‘Originally it was all removals. Bank managers and government employees moved around a lot, but we knew we had to diversify.’’
Today, the company has more than 30 trucks and 60 staff nationwide, and their signwritten trucks are recognisable in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
About 80 per cent of their removals – mostly furniture – is from commercial clients, although Mr Ritchie says household removals are still among their bread-and-butter work.
‘‘I do still do quotes for people moving house, quite happily. One of the most satisfying things for me to hear is people saying, ‘I used you guys 25 years ago’ – that’s very rewarding.’’
It says a lot about Mana Transport’s ideals, Mr Ritchie says. Good customer service and reliability, ‘‘even though we’re not the cheapest outfit’’, means companies and individuals will return.
Because of their reputation, their only advertising is Yellow Pages.
‘‘People recognise the sign-writing. We’ve used the same guy since the beginning and built up our name from there.’’
One driver has been with the company for 30 years and some are in the ‘‘20-year bracket’’.
Mr Ritchie has one gripe, about the number of ‘‘ fly-by-nighters’’ in the industry. The only regulation they have is on the number of hours drivers can work, but he would love to see tighter controls on unlicensed movers.
He scratches his head when asked of any big muck-ups over the years. He recalls a truck going off the road near Mangaweka and flames coming from another along the Canterbury Plains (lightbulbs left on inside the back of the truck, with a mattress leaning against them), but no major wrong deliveries.
Over the years, Mana Transport has had a number of homes. The company worked on the trucks in Mr Koskela’s garage in Champion St, and has had premises in Raiha St, Kenepuru Dr and Norrie St.
The company has been based in Broken Hill Rd for the last 30 years.