Local focus: the power of tautoko means they’re here for the long haul

Gisborne trucking companies band together to survive Covid-19 and flooding. Traction.

When it rains, it rains for J&R Savage Log Haulage.

Road closures and restrictions on road use due to flooding around the east coast mean the business cannot operate in Gisborne for around a month.

Owner-operators Rau and Jack Savage said they had secured temporary short-term contracts in Rotorua through their main Rewi Haulage Ltd to maintain their business.

This is on top of the financial struggles of running a business during Covid-19, but they are optimistic about the future.

“We received news from our manager on February 3, 2020 announcing Covid-19,” Rau said.

“As we look back on that date and everything that happened in between, it seems like a huge surprise that we are still negotiating.”

When the effects of Covid hit and the business was struggling, Rau and Jack credit the tautoko of other Gisborne businesses as the main reason they are still operating after the Covid-19 restrictions.

“Our ability to stay in the game has been helped by the great team we have around us,” she said.

“When cash flow started to seem non-existent, we communicated verbally and via email our financial situation and dropped payment plans going forward.

“While every creditor has given us their support, we have been able to move slowly to try to recover our business.”

Rau and Jack are grateful to all the businesses that have supported them through Covid.

The couple returned to Tairāwhiti in 2009 to be closer to whānau.
Rau credits his unwavering work ethic to his late father John Manuel.

While Jack was involved in logging on the East Coast for 11 years, Rau quit his job at Countdown five years ago to help the family business.

She began to deal only with administration, but Jack had other plans.

“I wanted Rau to know all aspects of this case,” he said.

“If all of a sudden I die, I want to know it should be safe and she could go on.”

Rau worked hard to learn all about his logging business: spending weekends with mechanics to learn about maintenance, learning to drive trucks, and building working relationships with creditors.

She has become the main point of contact for the company and said her role as a former administrator is now much more practical.

“I received a phone call from one of our drivers passing through Tolaga Bay, to let me know that he will be out of driving hours, I told him to meet me in Okitu.

“I swap with him and pick up the truck, unload at the port, then mount the trailer, refuel and then drive it back to the yard,” Rau said.

“One of our truck and trailer units requires a new COF, I am taking on this responsibility so Jack can overtake our second truck.

“I take the unit to our mechanic and work with him on the tools to get our unit ready for compliance.”

Rau and Jack say J&R Log Haulage still hasn’t recovered financially from Covid.

“We haven’t recovered from 2020, we are still vulnerable to the turbulence that comes with running a business,” Rau said.

The couple say there’s a silver lining to the twin challenges of Covid restrictions and moving operations to Rotorua – it’s given businesses resilience that will take them far into the future.

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