Striking green and gold in East Otago

8 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineAugust 7, 2018

With a fleet upgrade and some new signage, East Otago Transport has emerged out of the shadows to become one of the smartest looking fleets in the south.

When you mention the small town of Waikouaiti to most people, their answer is, “Where is that?” Situated within the city limits of Dunedin, Waikouaiti has a population of just over a thousand and is home to East Otago Transport.

The yard is situated on State Highway 1 just north of the main township and was the premises of A S Clulee Limited between 1959 and 1998, and then Clulee Cartage Limited until they were purchased by Kevin Byrne and Ian Ritchie back in 2006. The company name was then changed to East Otago Transport.

Ian Ritchie only spent a short time with the company before returning to the farming sector.

It was time for a fresh start, so owners Kevin and Jodie Byrne decided to give the fleet a whole new look. With East Otago Transport having a base colour of green with yellow writing (also the local sporting colours), Jodie thought the look had become a bit ‘plain Jane‘, and with a new Freightliner arriving, the timing was right for a change. She‘d seen the farm scene vinyl wrap on some of the Woodley Transport fleet, which at the time were passing through Waikouaiti quite often. Jodie‘s idea was to arrange photos of the local landmarks on the crates, but with the crates being ribbed on this unit the idea was shelved. Instead the plain bold yellow swoop was developed to represent the bay of Waikouaiti Beach, and the historical farm region of Matanaka, home to the country‘s oldest surviving intact farm buildings. With this design established, and the addition of some silver and black incorporated in a graphic around the name on the cab door, the look fell into place.

Photo: An East Otago Transport Freightliner unloads lime.

The expansion of the fleet continued with the addition of a 2015 Freightliner Argosy for bulk work, two Isuzu 530s (stock and bulk combinations), and two HPMV 9800i International Eagle 9-axle bulk truck and trailer units. The Freightliner Argosy stock unit has also had a Fruehauf 5-axle stock trailer added, with new Delta crates for both truck and trailer. The ground spreading division has also received a boost recently with the addition of a second Scania to cope with demand in the area.

On the day New Zealand Trucking magazine visited, company driver Randy Tupaea, who incidentally also doubles as the company‘s stock controller, picked up a load of hoggets from Bendigo Farm, not too far from Waikouaiti, and transported them, truck only, out through Dunback, climbing the winding hills to Macraes Flat. Usually Randy would take the trailer on this trip but the poor condition of the roads due to recent heavy rain in the region meant the trailer was left at the yard.

Photo: Driver Randy Tupaea helps offload hoggets at MaCraes Flat.

Randy is well known in the area, and a well-respected member of the East Otago Transport team. He takes great pride in his Freightliner Argosy, arguably the flagship of the fleet.

Another key to the success of the company is operations manager Nathan Butler. Nathan moved to Waikouaiti about six and a half years ago. He walked into Waikouaiti Auto and Engineering (also owned by Kevin and Jodie) one snowy morning asking if there was any work available. He was told to come back the next morning. He never left! As it turned out Nathan started work for Kevin at another of his companies, Southern Water Blasting, starting off as a water blaster/painter before moving into the manager‘s role. Kevin then offered Nathan the management role at East Otago Transport.

Photo: Sometimes road conditions in this rugged area rule out being able to take the trailer.

“Managing the transport side is very challenging,” Nathan explains, “as the industry is extremely competitive and a low margin type business. This has been a major role for me, coming from a normal 40-hour week with little responsibility, to having the phone ring nearly 24/7. It can be character building to say the least.”

Nathan‘s current role still includes looking after the Southern Water Blasting business, as well as another of the Byrne‘s interests, East Coast Couriers 2006 Ltd. “I enjoy the busy interchangeable role. At times it seems that the busier you are the easier it gets,” says Nathan. The courier business was acquired after the former courier firm went into liquidation a few years ago. Two vehicles, a Toyota Hiace van and an Isuzu 4-tonne truck, provide a daily service from Dunedin through to the Maniototo area via Oceania Gold at Macraes Flat. Recently Kevin and Jodie purchased another local freight company called Waikouaiti Freight, which will now become part of the courier operation. In conjunction with this expansion, a new Isuzu 6×4 freight truck has been added, allowing the payload to increase from six to 12 tonne. And the services and sidelines don‘t stop there. East Otago Transport also has a log truck to bring firewood into the yard to be processed in the new Blockbuster 22/22 heavy-duty firewood processor imported from America in January. This allows the company to supply clean dry product direct to the customer.

Photo: Company owners Kevin and Jodie Byrne stand proudly beside their fleet.

Nathan said recent investments in new trucks and equipment have been a major boost to the company. “Quality gear brings quality staff and a more professional approach to work. Our customers have certainly noticed the changes, with renewed support coming from all directions.”

The East Otago Transport yard is a regular hive of activity, with a public weighbridge, and a number of products available at the yard including bark chip, wood nuggets, pea straw, cement, gravel and lime.

Waikouaiti, it isn‘t just a small town you pass through; look closer and you‘ll find it‘s as energetic and enterprising as anywhere in the country.