Hall of Fame Inductee 2013
George was born in London on the 27th of July 1927, growing up in the then London Slum of Pancreas during the ”Great Depression” and was forever influenced by the poverty and struggles experienced by his family during his early years. In his words he “escaped” to sea at the age of fourteen (having advanced his age to eighteen) when he joined the merchant Navy as a deck boy. As this was wartime the ships George served on were involved in the trans-Atlantic convoys that ensured the necessary supplies to allied troops; from the USA to Britain.
George wisely used his off duty time at sea by becoming a voracious reader and so started his lifetime thirst for knowledge and self-education.
On a voyage to New Zealand in the early 1950’s George “jumped ship” and settled in Wellington where he set up as a painting contractor that specialised in the most difficult jobs such as painting and maintaining lighthouses, moored navigation buoys and wharf cranes. In his spare time he learnt building skills and built his first home.
A serious fall meant George had to abandon his business and so started his very eventful career in the taxi and road transport industries.
He started as an owner/shareholder cabbie in Black White and Grey Cabs in the late 1950’s and became the company’s manager in 1962, where he remained until he took up a position with the NZ Road Transport Association in 1978. At the NZRTA he quickly became a recognised expert in all transport matters and a key negotiator for transport industry employers in often very difficult award settlements. Part of his role at this time was to also provide Secretarial services for the NZ Taxi Proprietors Federation. He eventually became the RTA’s Executive Director, but when deregulation of the taxi industry appeared imminent in 1986 he was persuaded to become the full time secretary of the NZ Taxi Federation; a position he continued in until retiring in 1994.
After only a very brief retirement George saw the opportunity for the wider transport industry to form its own industry training organisation and immediately set about making it happen. He lobbied hard with the Road Transport Forum, The Bus and Coach Association, The Taxi Federation, the Federation of Labour and the Heavy Haulage Association and eventually convinced all of them to establish the Road Transport and Logistics Industry Training Organisation (later to become Tranzqual, which later still merged with MITO).
Through sheer determination and considerable negotiating skill, George secured the necessary funding and the support of Government organisations such as The NZ Qualifications Authority and The Tertiary Education Commission and set about recruiting experienced industry people as contractors to develop qualifications and unit standards. Within a couple of years he had set up an office, hired the first staff members and had the organisation on a sound financial footing; at which time he then convinced the directors to engage Graeme Talbot as CEO and again retired.
Right up until the time of Georges death on 7 April 2013, he continued as a very effective part-time Secretary for the Taxi Federation’s Wellington Branch and was often contracted by the Federation’s national office to provide consultancy and mediation services.
George was a strong supporter of the Chartered Institute of Logistics in New Zealand of which he was made a Fellow in recognition of having served for a lengthy period as the Wellington Section Secretary. George was presented with the Norman Spencer Memorial Medal in 1995 (the foremost award given by the Chartered Institute in New Zealand); the award was presented to George at a special ceremony by HRH Princess Anne.
Perhaps Georges most enduring legacy is the Total Mobility Scheme that provides taxi based transport for the disabled community. Today there is a national fleet of in excess of 200 wheelchair capable hoist vehicles.
George was a man with a giant intellect who worked tirelessly for those he represented. He will be remembered for his integrity, deeply held humanitarian principles and his drive and energy to make a difference for ordinary people.