Chris Cowan

Ruggs Transport reborn years after delivering milk to West Coast communities

Chris Cowan remembers always being around milk trucks as a youngster; the milk run was, “just part of every day, the milk truck would always take off and head around the Coast.”

Chris’ dad bought Ruggs Transport in 1946 and negotiated a contract in 1952 with Riversdale Dairy to cart their town milk. In the beginning they covered the run from Inchbonnie to Rotomanu. A few years later, the milk run had expanded and the business was delivering milk cans to Kokatahi, Arthur’s town, and Arahura.

“We had this contract until 1974, which meant we carted milk for Riversdale Dairy for 22 years, including to Greymouth and Hokitika, and we never missed a day,” says Chris.

In the early 1970s, the way milk was delivered was changing and milk cans were being replaced by tankers.

“We had to adapt and decided to add a tanker to the transport fleet,” says Chris.

Chris followed in his dad’s footsteps and joined the business in 1968. Although he drove trucks, he only briefly worked as a relief driver for the milk tanker.

His dad sold Ruggs Transport in 1976, and the well-known transport name slowly dropped away. 

Since leaving the business, Chris pursued a love for dairying and in 1983 bought the family farm and converted it to dairying in 1995. He also made a career flying helicopters and was known to have his chopper parked on the farm so he could jump in when work called.

The dairy farm, with 230 cattle at its peak, was sold in 2007 so Chris could focus his time on his helicopter business. Chris spent 30 years in flying helicopters, which started off as work capturing deer. The business grew steadily over the years, including work for the Department of Conservation and Solid Energy, among several others.

Chris had the opportunity to sell his helicopter business in 2009, and was looking for another challenge, that’s when he re-visited the past and got back into transport. A block of trees on his property needed to be logged, and he was more than happy to do it himself, at the same time starting a logging business. It wasn’t hard for Chris to come up with a name, and easy as that, Ruggs Holdings was re-born.

Chris speaks proudly of his dad’s business, and looking back, is happy they were involved in delivering milk to the communities on the West Coast.

“We did the milk collection for 22 years, it was just a part of the business that ticked along,” he says.