Mov­ing to keep with the times

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KRIS DANDO

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.

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