READY, SET, GROW!

In April 2021, Short Test April 20216 MinutesBy Dave McCoidMay 28, 2021

How many plants are here, Andrew?” “Lots. I couldn’t tell you.” Yep, we’re happy with “lots”. I mean, the question probably should be, “How many ornamental plants, trees, and shrubs can you get in 10ha?” “Lots!”

It has to be seen to be believed in all honesty. Ten hectares at Ramarama with another shared depot facility at Otaki, more than 70 staff literally up to their knees in ‘life’, and a six-truck fleet. How on earth did it all start?

A little over 45 years ago, Peter Tayler was working as a MAF advisor to the orchard industry in the Auckland area. One of his regular calls was a nursery business in Mt Wellington on Waipuna Road. When the owner decided enough was enough, Peter took on the company. The new enterprise grew, but those who remember that far back will also recall real estate in that area was coming under increasing pressure with the march of industry outwards from Penrose and Otahuhu. As a result, in 1982 the decision was made to relocate to Ramarama under the far-off hills to the south. The rest, as they say, is history, and like a plant, with good stewardship, Rainbow Park Nurseries has steadily grown in the successive four or so decades to what we’ve described above.

Oh, and before you ask, the ornamental ‘handle’ refers to plants that make things pretty, rather than fruit and veggies. Don’t whatever you do think for a moment it means non-living.

The great thing about the business, the thing that always sets businesses like this apart, is you can still easily find Peter Tayler here at work each day, tending to his plant-based odyssey with as much enthusiasm as ever. You’ll also find his son and general manager Andrew who, as it happens, has more than a passing interest in trucks. How cool is that?

“We started doing a portion of our own trucking about 15 years ago,” says Andrew. “Our first truck was a 4×2 UD we bought off Crane & Cartage, primarily to cart the big trees around. It’s hard to get general carriers to do a 5m tree.

“The business of growing and transporting plants is a specialist thing; there’s the fragility, time and temperature to consider. We’d used a number of carriers over the years, but it became increasingly obvious that if we were going to achieve the outcomes we wanted for our clients, we’d have to take on more and more of our own distribution as volumes dictated we could.”

Okay, more interesting plant stuff as a segue to the next subject… Each year, the Taylers attend an international plant-buyers fair in The Netherlands, where they select plants for the upcoming season.

Tissue Culture is then shipped home, packaged as little slivers in a nutritional gel. The question then… ‘If you’re in Holland lots, what truck make do you see most?’ And there’s the answer to, ‘Why DAFs?’

“They’re everywhere over there,” said Andrew. “So, when it came time to take on more of our own logistics, I knew you could get them here, so gave them a go. ‘They must be good trucks,’ I thought.

“We started with the LF in 2004, doing local, Hamilton, and Tauranga. It’s been a fantastic truck, and we still have it. Likewise, the CF-75 we bought in 2011, which has done 650,000km. We keep our trucks for a long time and they don’t do huge mileage as a rule. The line-haul trucks maybe do 140,000km a year.

“We deal with Mitch Redington at Southpac, and really it’s Southpac that keeps us coming back. We’re obviously not a big customer in terms of truck numbers, but they seem to drop everything when there’s an issue. I just can’t fault them. I bought Volvo prior to the latest truck as I just felt the old CF model was getting long in the tooth.

“By the time we’d be ready to sell it on, the tech in it would be two generations out of date. The Volvo’s been good, but the moment the new model DAF was available, it was straight back to Southpac without a moment’s hesitation. I can’t speak highly enough of them.”

Today’s Rainbow Park fleet comprises six curtain-side trucks, two trailers — one simple, one full — and a flat deck with a crane. Truck purchasing comes under Andrew’s brief, a role that suits him fine.

As we said, they’re not an annoying necessity to him. He’s hugely enthused by the mechanical members of his distribution division.

In the wings, of course, is the new CF-530 Euro-6, a truck that will herald in another new era in terms of scale and capability. Based on what we saw and experienced at this wonderful botanical bonanza, growth on every conceivable front is a long way from over.

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