Sir Robert Owens KNZM, CBE Order of Merit (Chile)

Sir Robert Owens KNZM, CBE Order of Merit (Chile)

Manchester-born master mariner Bob Owens immigrated to New Zealand in 1946, settling in Tauranga in 1952.

In 1953 he set up a two man canvas cover manufacturing operation which was the beginning of a group of companies later to be known, as The Owens Group.

Owens became one of Australasia’s leading transport logistics companies and for many years, controlled the major share of Trans-Tasman freight forwarding, as well as having a presence in the majority of New Zealand’s ports and a becoming a major operator on New Zealand’s Roads, with Trailways later to be renamed Owens Road Transport.

The original Owens Services Bay of Plenty operation was a cargo and materials handling company based in Mt Maunganui and these operations remained in his private hands until his passing.

Tauranga and Mt Maunganui Stevedores, later to become Owens Services Bay of Plenty Ltd, grew rapidly through the 60’s on the back of the burgeoning trade in export logs to Japan, of which Owens pioneered to become a national player in the 1970’s and a representative for Mitsui OSK Line and a host of other shipping lines, including Nedlloyd.

Bob also made his mark as a local body politician, serving after the 1971 election as mayor of Tauranga and ultimately of Mt Maunganui, as New Zealand’s first dual Mayor.

He became a national figure in 1972, putting together the New Zealand half of the joint venture to acquire the Union Steam Ship Company from P&O.

In 1982 he led a trade mission to South America and was instrumental in breaking the Australian-led trade ban against Chile.

The Owens Group was publicly listed in July 1985.

Bob had many credits to his name, notably a CBE awarded in 1991 for his services to the transport industry, local government and the community. Then in 1996 he as inducted in to the Business Hall of Fame and in 1997 awarded a knighthood in the Queens Birthday Honours list.

Up until Bob’s death on 5 September 1999 at the age of 78, The Owens Group was vigorously involved in the transport sector with numerous companies embracing most aspects of the logistics industry with offices in all main centres of New Zealand, Australia and in the UK.

In 2003, Owens Group Ltd listed company was taken over by Mainfreight with Bob’s unlisted private company Owens Services (BOP) Limited being purchased by Port of Tauranga in 2002. Owens Services (BOP) Limited has since changed its name to C3 Limited.