Six join NZ Road Transport Hall of Fame

In News28 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineOctober 7, 2022

Six new people have been inducted into the NZ Road Transport Hall of Fame.

Every year, six people from around the country are inducted into the Hall of Fame, which honours their outstanding contributions to the national road transport industry. Inductees are selected to take their place alongside some of the most respected names within the industry.

This year’s inductees are Sam McRae from the South Island, Wayne McCurdy of New Plymouth, John Frew of Canterbury, Ian Patchell of Rotorua, Glyn Tyler-Davies of Orewa, and David Conroy of Napier.

The NZ Road Transport Hall of Fame aims to raise funds for the ProActive Youth Driver Education Trust.

HWR director Joc O’Donnell says ProActive Youth Driver Education is a worthy cause that aligns nicely with the Hall of Fame event.

“The inductees and guests at the NZ Road Transport Hall of Fame have all contributed to creating a safer environment on our roads, whether it be through their innovations or their professionalism, and we’re proud to be able to support this initiative to ensure our youngest road-users learn valuable skills as well,” she says.


Wayne McCurdy

Wayne McCurdy was born in New Plymouth in June 1950 to Jim and Barbara McCurdy.

McCurdy Engineering was established in 1961 by Wayne’s parents in their home garage on South Road, New Plymouth. In 1965, the company was officially formed and moved into a purpose-built engineering workshop on Barrett Road.

Wayne joined the team in 1972 after qualifying as a fitter and turner with the Taranaki Harbour Board. The work in those days was mainly repairing and fabricating agricultural equipment for local farmers and contractors around the area. As the company grew it expanded into body building, crane mounting and chassis alterations. Around this time, Wayne joined the Institute of Road Transport Engineers and the Truck & Trailer Manufacturing Association of which McCurdy’s are still members.

With an ambition to expand the business further, Wayne took over the reins in 1987 and signed up with Titans as a service dealership, and picked up the Volvo truck and construction franchise.  In 1990 the company moved into new premises on Devon Road.  Southpack Trucks approached Wayne, giving the newly formed Auckland business a foot in the door in the Taranaki region. Having the Volvo franchise for Taranaki meant McCurdy’s could support Fonterra (or Kiwi Dairies as it was originally known).  Eventually Titans was taken over by Truckstops, bringing Hino and Mack with them. In 2011 Wayne and wife Frances purchased another established Taranaki automotive business, Moller Johnson Isuzu, with workshops in Hawera and Bell Block, meaning the McCurdy’s now offered Taranaki-wide coverage for the heavy transport industry.

McCurdy Engineering and Moller Johnson integrated in 2017 and rebranded as McCurdy Trucks.

In late 2019, McCurdy Trucks opened a purpose-built truck and trailer repair facility with a specialist 10-bay service workshop, 8-bay engineering and fabrication workshop, showroom and expanded parts warehouse at their upgraded premises in New Plymouth.

Wayne has always been an active contributor to most transport organisations including TTMF, RTA, NZ Heavy Wheel Aligner Association and is still a member of the MTA Heavy Transport Committee. Wayne has also served on Government committees developing rules and opportunities for private truck workshops to carry out COF inspections.

In 2000, Wayne’s son Paul joined the company as an engineer, making it three generations of McCurdy engineers. Paul has since become manager of the company following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps however Wayne still keeps a close eye on things – he still turns up daily to add input into the parts, service, sales and engineering departments, just the hours vary!

McCurdy’s now employ around 60 staff within their parts, service and engineering workshop, sales and admin departments. Wayne is also proud to now have a fourth generation McCurdy working in the business.

It is fair to say the wheels of Taranaki would have crawled to a halt years ago without Wayne and McCurdy’s 60 odd years of support to the industry.

Sam McRae

In 1932, Sam McRae sold his Chev car to purchase a truck.

Prior to that, Sam had worked on farms and in the mines. Sam and his wife Helen began with a very old truck but were soon able to buy a new Bedford for 300 pounds. In 1936 they purchased the businesses of James Grant and TE Duncan, who were both based in Nightcaps.  Not long after, they purchased the business of Eric James of Aparima and Des McGrath of Wreys Bush.

Much of the original work involved the cartage of coal from the local mines supplemented with cartage of sheep and lambs during the season.

The business grew and expanded the area they served to include Aparima, Orawia, Ohai, Birchwood, South Hillend and Opio. The fleet increased to meet demand. Some purchases were second-hand.

In the mid-1940s, a unit to sow lime and fertiliser was purchased and fitted to a D40 International. The business operated a variety of trucks including Reo, GMC, Bedford, International, Commer, Leyland, Ford V8 and the work now included hay, tiles, freight and bagged super, lime and grain. The company never owned a trailer until it purchased a D Series Ford.

In 1945, when his brother John arrived home from the war, Sam offered him a part in the business, hence the name S&J McRae. Shortly after, he set up Ohai Freight with John and friend, Bob Nisbet. In 1953, Sam joined Terry Gilligan to purchase Terry’s father Barney’s business in Mossburn which formed into Te Anau Transport. Sam and Terry joined George Hedley, Cliff Bennetts and John Davies to form Northern Southland Transport.  Sam also operated Heddon Bush Transport and was one of three original directors of Central Fertiliser Company, which was setup to operate the bulk fertiliser store at Lady Barkly.

When licencing rules changed, Sam is believed to have been the first in Southland to obtain a Vehicle Authority (V.A.).  He also transported the first building around the lake to Queenstown on the back of a truck.

Sam served his community in many ways. He was not a committee person – he said he did not have time for committees as a business, a wife and three daughters kept him very busy – but he was always working for local clubs and organisations by providing machinery or carrying goods for example, soil for local parks or horses for the pony club. It was a testament to his service that, when he died, he was a life member of seven clubs including the local Rugby Club, Golf Club, Pony Club, Swimming Club, Birchwood Hunt Club and Wairio Trotting Club. He was also made a Justice of the Peace.

Sam’s biggest pastime was his love of horses, a passion his daughters inherited and they spent many happy years involved in the equestrian world. On fine days in the summer, Sam and Helen would toot the horn on the truck outside their home and children would come from blocks away to get a ride over on the back of the truck to the river for a swim.

Sam always fought for the underdog, was a man of principles and an anonymous benefactor to many.

John Frew

John Frew began working in the haulage and transport industry in 1928 at the age of 18.

His father Edgar, was a 50% owner of McCrostie and Frew which operated in Greendale using a McLaren traction engine hauling bagged grain to the railheads at Northwood north of Dunsandel on the Main Trunk Line and to Darfield on the Midland line.

In November 1930 John bought his first truck, a five-tonne second-hand Republic, and John and Edgar began trading as EH Frew. This name was necessary because John was still a minor so could not legally operate a cheque account to pay for goods and services. The traction engine was sold the following year.

In 1933, at the first Transport Licensing hearing in Christchurch, John was granted a General Goods Services Licence. He immediately appealed against the restrictions imposed and so began a working lifetime of fighting for more licensing rights.

The Frews fleet of two trucks was increased with the purchase in 1935 of another Greendale carrier’s truck. This truck had a sheep crate with a drop-down second deck so cattle could be carted.  Frews now began to service the weekly Addington livestock and cart fat lambs to the Islington freezing works.

John was a foundation member of the Malvern Branch of the New Zealand Road Transport Alliance formed in Darfield in November 1936. In 1940, as chairman of the branch, he was instrumental in opposing the wartime Government-forced amalgamation of about 10 local transport companies in the Malvern and Selwyn Counties. Instead, the Branch formed a Goods Service Control Committee, with John as chairman, to allocate the supply of tyres and fuel, and organise cartage work until the end of the war.

Shortly after the war ended, Frews purchased Rae Bros Transport and moved from Greendale to Darfield to be in the centre of the Malvern County. The company’s name changed after the war to Frews’ Motors Ltd and again in the early 1960s to Frews Transport Ltd.

During his working life John did everything necessary to keep trucks rolling – driving, servicing and mechanical repairs. He was a competent engineer building livestock crates, bulk lime spreader hoppers and elevators for transferring bales of hay from truck deck to hay shed. He also built Frews first bulk two-axle tip trailer to cart coal, grain and super phosphate.

But it wasn’t all work and no play for John. He played senior cricket for Darfield and Greendale; was a keen, if somewhat unlucky, salmon and trout fisher and duck-shooter and in the 1960s was elected to the Darfield Advisory Township Committee, with responsibility for setting local body rates for the township and advising the Malvern County Council on infrastructure works requirements. He was also a charter member of the Malvern Lions Club established in 1971.

The 1970s was a time of expansion for Frews with the purchase of transport companies in Sheffield and Oxford followed by diversification into demolition and contracting work in Christchurch. The size of the fleet expanded from 10 vehicles to nearly 50 leading to its centennial celebration in 2021.  By mid 1960s, John’s three sons, Evan, Mervyn and Owen were all working in different roles in the company. In the background John was there to give wise guidance and encouragement.

In 1992, in recognition of service to the transport industry for over 45 years, John Frew, then aged 82, was awarded Life Membership of the Christchurch Branch of the NZ Road Transport Alliance.

Ian Patchell

Ian Murray Patchell was born in 1949 and grew up on the family farm in Ngakuru near Rotorua.

Ian spent his formative years working for his father on the farm and developed the entrepreneurial spirit that would play such a big part in his life. At 12 Ian was employing his own crew picking up hay bales and driving his father’s truck to transport them. Welding was first learned by repairing a broken Bakelite wheel on his cast-iron toy truck using a magnifying glass and the sun as a make-shift welder to weld it back together.

Ian left school at the age of 17 and, after various jobs in Rotorua, left in 1969 to pursue a career as a boilermaker at Kinleith Mills in Tokoroa, establishing himself as one of the top boilermakers in the country. To this day, Ian still takes pride in the skill and craft of being a boilermaker and will often describe himself as one.

In 1972 Ian returned to Rotorua and started a small engineering workshop in View Road, initially focusing on the repair and manufacture of attachments for bulldozers, loader equipment, and repairing log transport equipment for local contractors.

In the early 1980s, after repairing repeated failures in other manufacturer’s trailers, a collaboration by Patchell with transport company owners and customers from Rotorua, Kawerau, Tokoroa, Taupo and Napier, Patchell produced some most innovative light tare trailers of that time, utilising high-strength materials now used by most other manufacturers today.

In 1986 Ian fitted the first onboard weigh systems into log transport equipment and in 1995 formed the well-known NZ onboard weigh system company SI-Lodec, further advancing the transport industry and Patchell’s reputation for ground-breaking innovation.

By manufacturing its own on-and off-highway logging trailers and in-forest tracked log loaders and attachments with an emphasis on quality, design and service, Patchell became a leader in New Zealand transport equipment manufacture.

In 2004, Patchell added a stainless tank manufacturing division and, in 2005, procured the highly regarded Swinglift container side loader. With this depth of practical experience, excellence in engineering design, production and manufacture and commitment to “getting it right first time”, Patchell was in a unique position to meet challenges from the container, log trailer and liquid food-grade stainless tank trailer environments for years ahead.

Ian is a founding member of the NZ Log Transport Safety Council. In 2007, he was sworn in as a Justice of the Peace and, in 2019, took out ‘Businessman of the Year’ at the Rotorua Business Awards. In 2020 he was inducted into the ‘Hall of Fame’ at his old alma mater, Rotorua Boys High.

In 1991, Ian Patchell made a mandate to retain an annual count of at least 10 percent of their labour force in apprenticeships, retaining their level of quality tradespeople and workmanship. In 2014, with the implementation of automation, Patchell produced the first of six robots to work in its production.

Launching this year is the Rotorua Boys High School Engineering Trades Academy, a Patchell Group partnership reconnecting Ian with his school and bringing to fruition Ian’s vision of delivering highly skilled tradesmen.

Five decades later, the Patchell Group is among Rotorua’s largest employers. Ian is quick to acknowledge the hard work and skills of the team he has built around him. He prides himself on employing many of the best in the business and whether they remain at the company or not they remain ‘Patchell People’ and he is immensely proud of them all.

Ian is still active in the business and is often seen in his workshops running the practised eye of an ageless ‘Boilermaker’ over the products his companies produce.

David Conroy

David Conroy was born in Napier in 1951, one of six children.

David had a strong work ethic and from an early age spent school holidays at McDonalds Transport yard, a local rural transport company, which cemented his interest in the road transport industry.

David left school at 15 years of age and commenced work for a merchant, Ethridge’s. For David, there was no time to sit still and a spare lunch hour could be used to earn more money by mowing lawns.

David’s interest in road transport led him to start driving trucks for one of Napier’s characters, Hughie McAllister, over the Napier Taupo Road in the late 1960s, which was a good grounding on things not to do in your own business.

This was followed by driving for Nihill Bridgemen Croad based out of Hastings, carting livestock, metal and timber. This took him all over the North Island and, with the late Matt Purvis being the dispatcher, there was always opportunity to do plenty of hours. Not afraid of hard work, David put aside extra money earned for future opportunities.

At 21 years of age, and keen to do something for himself, David approached a local furniture removalist Bill Griffin and, with some financial support from his mother, David purchased a business with one D-series petrol powered Ford.

Conroy Removals was founded in 1972, based out of Napier with one truck. David Conroy was transporting household furniture all over New Zealand, and eighteen months later another truck and one VA were purchased off Ivan Palleson from Hastings. At this time, David’s brother Gary joined the business as a partner and drove the second truck. Gary has since retired and remains a shareholder in the business. In the early days, their mother looked after the administration and phones while the boys covered the country in their trucks.

As the business grew, a branch network was established, initially in Auckland, followed by Wellington, Christchurch, Tauranga, Nelson and Cromwell.

In the late 90s, there was a desire to have a presence in Australia, so a three-truck business was purchased in Brisbane followed by Townsville, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

David always had an absolute passion for the wider transport industry, serving on the RTA at a local branch level and at a regional level on the CARTA executive.

He also served on the New Zealand Overseas Movers Association, building long-standing relationships and networking with overseas removal partners which has helped grow the international part of the business.

David has always had a focus on supporting and sponsoring community activities in local areas as it is his way of thanking people that have supported Conroy’s over many years.

With Conroy’s now in its 50th year of business with around 350 staff and 12 branches in New Zealand and Australia, this is a testament of David’s passion and interest in people and the wider transport industry.

David is still actively involved in the day-to-day operations of Conroy Removals Business ensuring the team maintain a “can do” attitude and provide the customer service he is proud of.

Glyn Tyler-Davies

Glyn Tyler-Davies was born in Warkworth in 1940 and lived at the yard next to the rail head at Kaipara Flats until around 1954, when the family moved to Orewa.

After attending boarding school at Mt Albert Grammar, Glyn went to work in admin at Tasman Pulp and Paper, before joining the family business, Smith and Davies, in 1958.  At 18 years old he got his heavy traffic licence and started driving a 953 OLB Bedford tipper.

In 1966, with the construction of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, Smith and Davies moved to premises in Northcote where Glyn steered the company into contracting, with earth-moving and bulk metal cartage becoming the core of the business. He began to apply his philosophy to the business, one he sticks with today: “go after jobs that are different – cart rock, cart scrap steel, do the harder-type work – there’s money in it”.

Under Glyn’s direction, Smith and Davies’ first major contracting job involved all the earthworks for Auckland’s first shopping mall, LynnMall in New Lynn.  About the same time the company bought the first of many Mercedes – a little 1418. By 2000, Smith and Davies had over 60 trucks, all Mercedes. The company reaped the benefits of a one-make fleet being familiarity and a stock of interchangeable spare parts in the workshop.

In 1970, Smith and Davies added log transport to their operation beginning a 29-year relationship with Carter Holt Harvey. In early 1980 the company purchased additional land in Albany which was developed into commercial units. Eventually the company was working in some way on just about every major construction project in Auckland including the Manukau wastewater treatment scheme, northern motorway extensions and the removal of contaminated landfill. A successful diversification of the business was dredging work, making mud-crete for the America’s Cup, reclaiming land at the waterfront for Fletchers and stabilising mud at the Bayswater marina.

Glyn was an active committee member of the Auckland Regional Transport Authority from the late 1960s through to the mid 1990s, when he was finally exhausted talking about containers and passed the mantel on to his nephew Graham.

Over the years Glyn and Noleine attended some 29 consecutive conferences and made a huge number of lifelong friends and contacts all around the country. They made a conference comeback in 1999, the year they won the BNZ Road Transport Business of the Year award.

Glyn sold the Transport and Civil Engineering business to Graham and Bob Grove in 2004 through a management buyout and retained the yards and other property assets. At the time the fleet consisted of 80 Heavy vehicles and 55 items of mobile plant.

Since retiring from road transport, Glyn has actively developed and maintained his commercial property interests and is a landlord to a number of transport operators and fleet service specialists.

Glyn and Noleine have three children who work in local government, software design and commercial construction administration, plus six grandchildren and now a great-grandson.