Changing landscapes

In Test Short story8 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 17, 2018

One of the great things about this work is the inspirational people you encounter along the way. The true battlers who have shown courage, grasped opportunity, and risked it all as they‘ve spent a lifetime working their proverbial arses off in order to build something truly worthwhile. They‘re often men or women you‘d pass in the street without a second glance. Their brand doesn‘t grace the front pages; they‘re not a household name. They prefer to remain unseen, and will likely shun any attention on themselves, all the while providing income and therefore security, not just for their own families, but also those of the people in their employ. True contributors.

Grant Reid and partner Alison Hancock are supreme examples of all the above with their business Waiau Pa Bulk Haulage (WPBH). Even more incredibly the pair have built WPBH from scratch in half a lifetime. There was no baton to pick up, nothing handed on.

The WPBH story starts in 1991 at the Te Papa paper mills in Auckland where Grant‘s brother worked. Grant was operating a Mitsubishi Shogun at the time and was in at the mill one day when he noticed the waste contractor taking away half-full pulp waste bins to be dumped. He thought it looked inefficient, and so with new batteries in the calculator and a contact at Perry‘s landfill in Hamilton, he crunched some sums and offered Te Papa mill an alternative that would see three full loads leave the mill each day, the product used as landfill capping. A perfect deployment for the mill‘s by-product and the impetus he needed for growth. At that time vast tracts of what would soon be South Auckland was dairy farms, and that‘s where the business headed. Tractors, mowers, rakes, and agricultural earthmoving soon supplemented the waste job. But Auckland was on the sprawl. “I remember in one season we lost 21 farms to subdivisions,” said Grant. “It was a case of adapt or disappear.” He chose ‘adapt‘.

The last agricultural machine left in 2000, and WPBH morphed into an earthmoving and quarry materials processing company. Early jobs included work at the Matarangi subdivision on the Coromandel, and the Formosa Golf Club. The jobs got bigger and bulkier. Grant, like Bevan Satherley whose Kenworth we featured in June, believes in working with the big companies rather than fighting against them all the time. That saw business continue to grow, working with the likes of HEBs on the Highbrook interchange in 2003 and Fulton Hogan on the Hillsborough interchange shortly after. From there it was on to the Waikato expressway and the Te Rapa bypass. “That was huge for us. We did half and Hick Brothers did half. There were 35 trucks doing 340 loads a day plus land formation work, the lot.”

Since then, Auckland‘s motorway extensions and the various stages of the Waikato expressway have continued to provide huge impetus, and there‘s not much that WPBH haven‘t been involved in, be it in their own right or as a supplier to a key contractor.

For WPBH, trucks are part of the support network for the core businesses. Grant explains: “The trucks are there to ensure I have continuity of rock processing and supply, for both my jobs and my customers‘ jobs. That‘s all. We don‘t go around chasing truck work, quite the opposite. We are not a company that works for the end user, if you can understand. You won‘t find us in the phone book so to speak. We won‘t come and dig your drain, or level your three-acre lifestyle block. That‘s not our business.”

And when it comes to dealing to rock, 24-year-old Madison Reid is the guy you want to know. WPBH own and operate a number of crushers, along with the dump trucks, diggers and loaders to keep the crusher‘s insatiable appetite satisfied, and voluminous output accommodated. In fact, they own the largest portable crusher in the country, an 88 tonne Terex Findlay J1480 jaw crusher capable of processing a mind-blowing 5500 tonnes per day given the right conditions.

Today the total operation comprises 70 pieces of kit and employs 59 staff. Crushers process rock for the core business and on contract in various locations around the greater Auckland and Waikato regions. Trucks-wise the WPBH fleet consists of four Isuzus, six Fusos, two DAFs, and as we know, two Kenworths have now entered the fray. Configuration for a WPBH truck is the uber-versatile 7-axle 6×4 rigid and 4-axle trailer. “The Isuzus have been good machines, but the HD470 Fuso hasn‘t been as reliable. I think they‘re let down by the AMT,” said Grant. “The DAFs have been exceptional and I‘m hoping the Kenworths will follow suit. I see the Isuzu and Fuso as five-year trucks, the DAF as a 10-year truck, and the Kenworth as a 20-year truck. Moving forward it will be DAF and Kenworth for those reasons and also maintenance and servicing continuity.”

Succession-wise all appears to be in good hands at WPBH, with Grant‘s son Madison (24) running a big chunk of the company, in the portable crushers with three crews. Madison‘s partner, Rachel Creswell (24), also has a big part to play running all health and safety and quality controls. WPBH prides itself on safety. Seeing self-made people encourage and entrust the next generation to take up substantial reins in the enterprise is way more than commendable.

“I don‘t think anyone really does any good at anything unless they‘ve been in it 25 years or more,” said Grant. By then you‘ve built that network of clients, engineers, support etc. and your own track record. It all starts to connect, come together and work.”

Chasing behind Madison are Soren (11), Poppy (9), and Culley (7), so there‘s room for plenty more divisions, and with Grant and Alison‘s example, who‘d bet against that happening!

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