Hall of Fame Inductee 2022

John Frew

John Frew began working in the haulage and transport industry in 1928 at the age of 18.

His father Edgar, was a 50 percent owner of McCrostie and Frew which operated in Greendale using a McLaren traction engine hauling bagged grain to the railheads at Northwood north of Dunsandel on the Main Tunk Line and to Darfield on the Midland line.

In November 1930 John bought his first truck, a five-tonne second-hand Republic, and John and Edgar began trading as EH Frew. This name was necessary because John was still a minor so could not legally operate a cheque account to pay for goods and services. The traction engine was sold the following year.

In 1933, at the first Transport Licensing hearing in Christchurch, John was granted a General Goods Services Licence. He immediately appealed against the restrictions imposed and so began a working lifetime of fighting for more licensing rights.

The Frews fleet of two trucks was increased with the purchase in 1935 of another Greendale carrier’s truck. This truck had a sheep crate with a drop-down second deck so cattle could be carted. Frews now began to service the weekly Addington livestock and cart fat lambs to the Islington freezing works.

John was a foundation member of the Malvern Branch of the New Zealand Road Transport Alliance formed in Darfield in November 1936. In 1940, as chairman of the branch, he was instrumental in opposing the wartime Government-forced amalgamation of about 10 local transport companies in the Malvern and Selwyn Counties. Instead, the Branch formed a Goods Service Control Committee, with John as chairman, to allocate the supply of tyres and fuel, and organise cartage work until the end of the war.

Shortly after the war ended, Frews purchased Rae Bros Transport and moved from Greendale to Darfield to be in the centre of the Malvern County. The company’s name changed after the war to Frews’ Motors Ltd and again in the early 1960s to Frews Transport Ltd.

During his working life John did everything necessary to keep trucks rolling – driving, servicing and mechanical repairs. He was a competent engineer building livestock crates, bulk lime spreader hoppers and elevators for transferring bales of hay from truck deck to hay shed. He also built Frews first bulk two-axle tip trailer to cart coal, grain and super phosphate.

But it wasn’t all work and no play for John. He played senior cricket for Darfield and Greendale; was a keen, if somewhat unlucky, salmon and trout fisher and duck-shooter and in the 1960s was elected to the Darfield Advisory Township Committee, with responsibility for setting local body rates for the township and advising the Malvern County Council on infrastructure works requirements. He was also a charter member of the Malvern Lions Club established in 1971.

The 1970s was a time of expansion for Frews with the purchase of transport companies in Sheffield and Oxford followed by diversification into demolition and contracting work in Christchurch. The size of the fleet expanded from 10 vehicles to nearly 50 leading to its centennial celebration in 2021. By mid 1960s, John’s three sons, Evan, Mervyn and Owen were all working in different roles in the company. In the background John was there to give wise guidance and encouragement.

In 1992, in recognition of service to the transport industry for over 45 years, John Frew, then aged 82, was awarded Life Membership of the Christchurch Branch of the NZ Road Transport Alliance.

Ian Patchell
Sam McRae