26 August 1938 - 15 June 2018
A large contingent of the Mahurangi trucking fraternity gathered at the Ranfurly Hall in Kaipara Flats, on June 22, to pay their last respects to one of their own, Don Munro.
Don died unexpectedly after being taken ill while on his way to Fieldays in Hamilton last month. At the funeral, he was described as a respected and influential figure in the trucking industry, and it was acknowledged that his willingness to challenge NZ Rail’s monopoly in the 1960s was a major contributor to growth in the Northland economy.
Don spent his formative years in Whakatane where he played rugby and was a keen runner. His childhood was rooted in the Scottish ethic of hard work and he started his first business, selling hollowstone blocks, while still a teenager. He left school at 15, completed a mechanical apprenticeship by 18 and then fulfilled three months compulsory military training. It was during this time that he met his future wife Ruth at a dance at the Ohope Hall. They were married four years later, and had three children – Trudy, Robyn and Krissy.
In 1964, the family moved north when Don and Pete Goudie purchased the Bentley & Hood transport business, based in Kaipara Flats, changing the name to Warkworth Transport. At that time, transport licensing strictly controlled the number of trucks operating in any given area and the distance those trucks could travel in competition to NZ Rail. The business had been built around these regulations, servicing the railhead at Kaipara Flats, but the new owners had their own ideas. They established a new depot at Warkworth Showgrounds and started moving freight, particularly beer, in competition with NZ Rail, using a loophole in the regulations that provided for goods to be moved to storage facilities within the distance limits. The showgrounds happened to be just metres inside those limits, as was the Warkworth to Whangarei run. NZ Rail was not happy and Don became a pretty competent bush lawyer as a result.
The demands of trucking kept him busy seven days a week, starting early and finishing late. Trucks of that era were entirely inadequate for the task, and both Don and Pete’s mechanical skills were sorely tested. Eventually they acquired German-built Mercedes Benz trucks, double the price of conventional brands, but much more suited to NZ’s harsh conditions. Their pride and joy – a V10, 8x4 truck and trailer unit – was said to be the envy of every transport operator in the country. The rail restriction legislation was finally abolished in 1983.
The faces behind some of the area’s most well-known transport operators were at Don’s funeral. They were, from left, Trevor Quinn (Quinn’s Transport), Maurie Hooper (Wharehine Contractors), Ian Ward (Transcon), Lew Hood (Hood Bros), Warwick Rhodes (Rhodes for Roads), Alistair Mason (Mason Containers), and Kelvin Schedewy (Schedewy’s Transport).
After selling Warkworth Transport in 1989, Don worked for United Carriers coordinating the transport logistics for Northland, and he and Ruth setup a cottage woodworking business. A decade later he semi-retired, but unable to sit still for long, established the home maintenance business Cross Country and fulfilled a long-time goal to go farming.
Despite a heavy workload throughout his life, Don still found time to be involved with Warkworth Rotary Club and as a fire police volunteer with Warkworth Fire Brigade. He liked nothing better than spending time with his ever-expanding family. He was described as a valued mentor to his workers over many years, and a respected and loved boss. His eulogy recorded that he prided himself on the fact that he was always fair and could have a good laugh, but made sure the job was done and to a high standard.