Business profile: Holmes Truck and Trailer Repairs

By: Vivienne Haldane, Photography by: Vivienne Haldane


Deals on Wheels caught up with Dannevirke-based Holmes Truck and Trailer Repairs—a large truck and trailer repair workshop that helps truckies keep the wheels turning

The Holmes family can’t keep away from the spanners. Three generations of them are ace mechanics. Alan Holmes has now retired, but his son Gareth and grandson Nathan are ensuring the family business keeps going strong.

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Matamau, near Dannevirke, isn’t so much a destination as a pit-stop. It’s probably best known (to truckies, anyway) for the excellent food (all-day breakfasts) at the Matamau Diner and plenty of room for their big rigs to pull over. Those who stop here may have also noticed, on the opposite side of the road, a large truck and trailer repair workshop.

In spite of Matamau’s ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ location, there’s no shortage of work because of the team’s good reputation at Holmes Truck and Trailer Repairs. In fact, they are so busy, they could do with another pair of hands. "We’re on the hunt for a top-notch, reliable mechanic," Gareth says. Anyone fancy relocating to Manawatu from the big smoke?

Setting base in New Zealand

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So how did these mechanics from Wigan in the UK come to be in this little outpost? Back in the UK, Gareth and his father ran a similar business. "We bought and sold second-hand trucks as well as trailers, did chassis and accident damage repairs for insurance work, as well as running a breakdown recovery truck," Gareth says. "However, in the late 1990s–early 2000s, second-hand sales started to diminish, as people began to buy new, often preferring to lease and upgrade every few years. Soon there were so many second-hand trucks that no one wanted, we lost a big chunk of that side of our business."

In 2003, Alan and his wife went on a holiday to New Zealand. "Dad is a bit of a workaholic, so when he told me he was going away for three to four weeks, I thought, that’s not like him. I told Mum she’d have to pack a bag of old rusty nuts and bolts to keep him happy," Gareth says.

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During his stay in New Zealand, Alan was impressed with the country and came back loaded with photos and videos. He found New Zealand to be just like the UK 20 to 30 years ago. Gareth says Alan suggested the idea of setting up a business in New Zealand and but he wasn’t keen.

But as fate would have it, Gareth’s sister, who also came out for a holiday, broke down at Matamau. A mechanic who ran a small workshop there fixed her car and mentioned the premises were for sale, as was a house down the road. She phoned her father in England to tell him and he said, "Just buy it for me."

With the purchase of the premises and the house, Gareth decided to fly to New Zealand to have a look too. He brought his CV along to test the waters and was offered loads of work—each better than the previous one. An offer he received while in Auckland was too good to pass up, so he and his wife and the family sold their house in the UK and moved to New Zealand. But his stint in Auckland wasn’t going to last long enough.

After three months into his job, Gareth drove down to see the business his father had bought. Recognising the potential of the business, he decided to move his base from Auckland to Matamau. After all, he hadn’t come all the way from the other side of the world just to live in another city; life in the country was what he and his family were really after. He also thought he and Alan had a fair chance of making their business work well in a rural area. And it has.

A family business

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Nathan, who was 11 when he came to New Zealand, joined the family business in 2012, having completed his apprenticeship with MITO. Originally, he planned to work as a car mechanic, but trucks won out he says.

Alan has since retired. He lives nearby and sometimes calls in on his daily walk. He has heaps of other things to do. He’s a talented classical singer and enjoys performing in choirs and at solo gigs around the district. There can’t be many singing mechanics around, can there?

The workshop does a bit of everything—CoF pre-checks, clutches, brake relines, servicing, engines, panel work, general maintenance, and repairs. They also sell batteries and some parts and have a fully serviced van that handles breakdown repairs. Gareth is pleased their business is expanding with a number of bigger clients using their services too.

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Additionally, VTNZ rent their building and facilities once a week. "We have a large inspection pit with brake rollers and heavy lifting equipment in an area especially designated for them. The fact that it’s a drive-through workshop is an added bonus.

"When Dad began leasing this workshop, he had only one pit, which he then extended to two. After he retired, I purchased the land with the building and extended it to have two extra, longer pits. We got busier and busier and eventually extended the workshop to make it larger, easier to work in, and with four pits."

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Gareth says what made him so  sought-after when he showed his CV on his arrival in New Zealand was the fact he is a multi-skilled mechanic with experience in vehicle recovery, panel beating, auto electrics, and chassis straightening. 

The latter skill he learned from Alan who had previously attended a chassis straightening course in Sweden. Gareth has also worked for two to three years as a long haul driver in the UK. He says it has given him a real appreciation for the need for drivers to get their trucks back on the road as soon as they can following a breakdown.

So if your truck or trailer breaks down near Matamau, don’t worry, there’s a couple of able mechanics who will get you back in action asap and while you are waiting, just head over to the café for a good feed. 

Holmes Truck and Trailer Repairs is located on SH2 School Rd, Matamau. To contact, call 06 374 6890.

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