Supporting West Coast farmers for half a century
Transport has always been a way of life for one Ahaura family, whose business has been a key link in supplying West Coast farmers with what they need to get the job done.
Russell Becker grew up in a transport family and trucks were always the main topic at the dinner table. His dad Jack, bought Ahaura Transport in 1967, with Russell joining the business 40 years ago.
The transport company has adjusted over the years to meet farmer's changing needs. When the Ahaura region went through a transition from sheep and beef farming to predominantly dairy, the transport company had to adjust its business to suit. The conversion led Ahaura Transport to take on a ready-mix concrete business, with four concrete trucks to keep up with the demand for new construction, such as milking sheds.
"I think we had our day in the sun with the ready-mix concrete business, during the conversions there was a demand for about 20 years, but the sheds and houses are all built now and that sort of infrastructure only really gets done once,” says Russell. "But since the dairy conversions there has been a massive increase in demand for stock feed and fertiliser cartage.”
The business has continued to evolve over the years and had the chance to expand its operations when restrictions on road and rail transport changed.
"Until 30 years ago there were restrictions in place so road transport couldn't compete with rail. This meant that we couldn't transport long distances, and we had to apply for a permit for certain jobs," says Russell. "When these restrictions changed in the 1980s it really gave us some freedom to roam."
The business has grown from two trucks to 12, with regular transport between Canterbury and the West Coast. Russell says that around 30 percent of their work involves transporting stock.
This includes a strong working relationship with Caanan Farming, which has been a big part of Russell's business.
"We've been involved in business together since the day they arrived on the West Coast, and I gave them support in the early days and they've returned it tenfold," says Russell. "We work with them daily transporting a variety of products. They’ve been a very big part of our business and we appreciate it.”
While Russell runs the transport operation full time with his son Kurt, who's been involved since his high school days, he's found time to pursue his rural dream of farm ownership.
Russell has a 130-hectare dairy farm near Ahaura with a sharemilker looking after a herd of 280 cattle, and another block of land for a developing beef unit near Nelson Creek. Russell says his farm operations are relatively hands-free for him at this stage, as his priority remains on the transport business and farmer's needs.
"Transport has been a way of life for our family for a long time. We've been servicing the local farming community for the past 51 years. Our customers and our staff are what makes our business; and Kurt and I enjoy dealing with them each day.”