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Feature: New Zealand - New Zealand Van Lines; Conroy Removals

Feb 12, 2014
Errol Gardiner shares his observations on New Zealand's positive economic shift and optimism for the future; Ed Roberts looks at the growth of Conroy Removals.

Business optimism soars in New Zealand


Errol Gardiner, Managing Director of New Zealand Van Lines and President of FIDI shared his observations on New Zealand’s positive economic shift and his nation’s optimism for the future.


According to new research from Grant Thornton’s International Business Report, New Zealand was ranked sixth in the world for business optimism. This surge in optimism is reinforced by signs that the nascent recovery is more wide-ranging than previously thought and that the mature economies of the UK and USA are beginning to drive global business growth once again. Also China’s optimism spells good news for New Zealand. As it is the largest economy on its side of the world, any upswing in positivity is expected to have a positive local effect.


New Zealand is now reaping the benefits of some recent sensible government management of the economy as a result of the global financial crisis with a four per cent growth expected for the local economy in 2014. A shift in the global dynamic is also anticipated with the UK and USA optimistic about business growth opportunities whilst emerging frontier markets like the BRICs could face the prospect of a slow down.


By comparison, New Zealand’s neighbours Australia were less upbeat, being placed 26th out of the 45 countries surveyed. Unemployment is set to hit an estimated 6.5% in Australia prompting a continuation of the increased migration of its citizens to New Zealand in search of work. New Zealand immigration figures recently reported the largest monthly inflow since 2003. Also highlighted was a marked decrease in New Zealanders departing to Australia. The influx is expected to have a knock-on effect on rising house prices and an increase in new homes (with 1,800 new builds granted consent in 2013 - the highest number since records began 37 years ago) across the country.


“In New Zealand, the removals industry has been in the doldrums since 2008,” offered Errol.  “The last two years have been particularly hard, so it's encouraging to see such positive comments from the financial press. It's also interesting to observe that are no caveats attached to any of the reports circulating on the economy - up until fairly recently any positive comments had a but’ included - not so in recent times. I think we can look forward to some better times ahead, which will be a welcome relief.”


To learn more about The Grant Thornton International Business Report visit:

Photo: Errol Gardiner - New Zealand Van Lines

Conroy Removals: From Quiet Achievers to Tall Poppies

Tall poppies, Conroy Removals are one of New Zealand’s market leaders and have enjoyed an interesting history during its first 41 years. Here, Ed Roberts looks at the company’s growth as it expanded from a one-truck furniture removal business to operating out of five major domestic locations and a further four across ‘the ditch’ in Australia.


Conroy Removals is still very much a family affair since its first days and the Conroy family runs it from their head-office in the small city of Napier – which is located in the south east of New Zealand’s North Island. Conroy Removals has weathered the recent global recession, even experiencing a substantial growth period over that last three years.


Starting out with an idea 41 years ago, Conroy Removals founder David Conroy’s passion for big trucks and machinery morphed into setting up his own company. David began his career in removals in 1972 with a job as a truck driver. Saving his overtime pay he was able to squirrel away enough money to afford his own vehicle. With a little bit of extra help from his mother he was able to buy a one-truck furniture removal business – with a Yellow Pages listing – in his home town of Napier.


41 years is a long time in any business and David confessed that the major changes experienced in New Zealand have revolved around the de-regulation of the industry and the lifting of import taxes. “In the early days the state-owned Rail Company had a monopoly so I wasn’t allowed to move new furniture or even a piano. It wasn’t so bad though because strangely enough, because of the large demand the Rail Company needed to outsource to small companies like my own.  So in all irony, my biggest competitor became my biggest customer,” David explained.  Before the 1980s Labour government deregulated New Zealand’s transport industry a large proportion of his work came from farms as it was a period for farming subsidy. He would also team up with other companies from other provinces across the country.


Within a few years David had been joined by his brother Gary and had set up the company’s first branch and depot in Napier. Deregulation saw a sudden increase in retailers and manufacturers taking advantage of the ‘new’ door-to-door services that domestic lorry firms could now provide. However the lifting of import taxes in New Zealand meant that cheaper furniture could be shipped into the country from abroad and this practice eventually put many home grown manufacturers out of business. It would be a hard period for that market sector but regardless of whereabouts in the world the furniture originated from, once it arrived in New Zealand it still needed delivering. As a result Conroy Removals continued to expand to cope with demand with David and Gary recognising the need to grow to remain a successful industry contender.


“Every time the business made a bit of profit we would open a new branch. So far we have depots in Napier, Auckland, Wellington, Tauranga on North Island and Christchurch on South Island,” David explained. “However, we always wanted to crack Australia. A lot of our business came from sending people to and from there. It was such a big market, so 15 years ago we purchased a small concern in Brisbane and built Conroy Removals up from there with four or five trucks.  Six years ago we were able to open a second depot in Townsville, North Queensland which is Australia’s major military hub.”  Since the continued success of its expansion to Australia, Conroy Removals hs opened further branches in Sydney and Melbourne. A large proportion of the work Conroy Removals receives is through international work and after a long struggle it has now begun to make its mark on the Australian market.


New Zealand was hit pretty hard by most recent global recession and Conroy Removals was no different from every other company. David admitted that the recession put a halt to the group’s growth for the first time five years ago but that there are now plans for further expansion.  With 255 full-time employees in New Zealand and Australia, Conroy Removals still continues to be spearheaded by its founding member and descendants of the family; David’s daughter Fiona is an active employee alongside brother Gary’s three children.


“Our business has evolved in ways we would never have been able to anticipate. Gone are the days when we didn’t have computers or mobile phones – you’d keep in contact by stopping at a road side pay phone. Nowadays the bulk of our work comes via the Internet from around the world from people we’ll never meet. Years ago that was unheard of,” said David. “In a lot of ways the business is no harder than when we operated with only one truck. There are challenges of all magnitudes to fit your size, but we’ve always stayed smart and innovative to achieve growth. We’ve got good long-term staff – some of whom have been with us for 20 years or more – so they know the culture and love the work. That gives Conroy Removal good standing in the trade.”


Conroy Removals has certainly come a long way and it is proof that with a bit of hard work, vision and a good idea you can make a good success and account of yourself in the land of the long white cloud, New Zealand/Aotearoa.


Photo:  David and Gary Conroy

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