Hall of Fame Inductee 2014

Les Cleveland

  • OBE

Born in Dunedin on the 24th of March 1931, Les spent most of his life ‘making a difference’. He began his working career at the age of 15 juggling two jobs, sorting rabbit skins at Wright Stephenson Wool Store and unpacking and stacking tyres at Goodyear. At the age of 17 he moved to Massey University in Palmerston North to begin a Bachelor of Agriculture but only 18 months later returned South to re-join Wright Stephenson in the wool classing division. This job was short lived as Les was unable to differentiate wool grades due to a developing eye problem. He moved back to Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Co and in 1951, at the age of 20, was promoted to Dunedin and Southland Area Manager.

In 1955 Les saw an opportunity in the motor trade for a company specialising in heavy machinery and trucks. Along with another Goodyear Manager, Jack Shaw of Christchurch, Les and his wife Connie set up business in their garage in Fairfield Dunedin under the name of Transport Supplies Ltd.

The early days saw one arm of the business negotiating import licences to import abandoned American GMC trucks from the Pacific Islands. Due to Government regulations at the time it was necessary to have local content in the trucks refurbishment so Les purchased 5 companies to achieve this. Les spent numerous hours negotiating with companies worldwide for the rights to operate a sole New Zealand agency for hydraulic pumps, rams and brake systems. In 1966 he split from Jack Shaw and after a large order from TNL set up Transport Wholesale Ltd. Significant growth in this industry and a staff in excess of 300 necessitated the requirement of a new building, which was built in Fairfield in 1979. Transport Wholesale quickly became regarded as one of the best companies to work for in Dunedin incorporating a state of the art cafeteria, an onsite cook and squash court. Les’ generous nature was noted with him providing free to staff fresh scones for morning tea, a daily cooked lunch, and excellent super scheme. Many family members worked in the business including both of Les’ sons Peter and Raymond who held extensive knowledge within the transport industry and very well respected. His brother Bernie was Branch Manager of Transport Wholesale Christchurch and daughter Shirley spent a number of years working in administration.


In 1988 Les sold his hugely successful nationwide business to Kent Robinson (Transpecs) and Peter and Michael Domet (Domet Trailers). 4 years later (1992) Kent and Peter sold it on to Gough Group.

Flowers, particularly daffodils were one of his loves which earned him the honorary name in Dunedin ‘the Daffodil Man’.

Les was elected onto the Otago Conservation Board in the early 1990’s until 2002. During this time he helped create a remarkable recreational opportunity, ‘The Otago Rail Trail’, which has benefited local communities and tourism in the Central Otago area.

His honours include OBE 1995, Commonwealth Medal 1990, St Johns Gold Star Medal, Paul Harris Fellowship of Rotary Foundation 1991, Dunedin Citizen of the Year 1997.

Les passed away at the age of 82 on the 15th of May 2013 after a short illness.

Les’ daughter Shirley and son in law Alistair are here to accept the award.

John Anderson
Mike Lambert