Hall of Fame Inductee 2020

Sir Jack Newman

Born July 3rd, 1902 at the family farm Naumai, Brightwater, near Nelson, Sir Jack Newman, Knight Bachelor, CBE, was instrumental in growing one of New Zealand’s largest road transport businesses, Newman Bros. Ltd.

Jack was educated at Nelson College before returning to the family farm. He joined the family firm in 1922 as a coach driver. This gave him tremendous respect for “the bloke up front” and throughout his career he made a point of knowing and caring about his staff. His father, Tom Newman, and uncle, Harry, started Newman Bros. on a cold morning in July 1879 when they drove their first Royal Mail Coach between Foxhill and Murchison. The first motor vehicle was purchased in 1911. Little did they know this would be the start of a nationwide fleet of buses, campervans, rental cars, trucks and a major tourism business. Jack became a director in 1927 and managing director by 1930 at the age of 28. 

Primarily Nelson based, the coach services started in the South Island and were extended to the lower North Island and eventually throughout New Zealand.

The family motto “only the best will do” took Jack to the United States to source Cadillacs. They were extended to seat 10-12 passengers, changed from left-hand drive to right, and travelled up to a million miles each. They cemented the firm’s reputation for quality and reliability. Only the best meant Internationals, British Leylands, Mercedes and Volvos came next.

The philosophy served the firm well when in 1955 four Newmans drivers completed a hectic 10-day tour of the North Island. A new tourism business was born, transporting the company and adding a new dimension to the New Zealand economy. By the firm’s centenary in 1979 Newmans was the largest tour operator in New Zealand with offices in Tokyo, Sydney, Los Angeles, Auckland and many New Zealand towns.

Jack founded Transport (Nelson) Ltd (TNL) in April 1938 with 12 shareholders. He was chairman until his retirement in 1980 and was then honorary founder president. It started with about 50 trucks scattered between the West C oast, Golden Bay, Nelson and Blenheim and included Newman’s Nelson to Takaka freight operation. By 1952 it became Transport (Nelson) Holdings Group, a public company. Newmans merged into TNL Group in 1972. By 1977 the Group had a staff of around 1500 and close to 1500 vehicle units. It was one of the biggest transportation and trucking companies in New Zealand.

Jack was known for his entrepreneurial spirit, enthusiasm, generosity, instinctive concern for the feelings and welfare of others, and the ability to get others involved even when reluctant. A busy man, he also held directorships of many other companies, served on different councils, business associations and charities.

Jack married Myrtle Thomas on the 27th of September 1926. They had four daughters Anne, April, Josephine (Jo) and Jillian.  A keen sportsman, he represented Nelson at cricket, golf, rugby and bowls. He played international cricket for New Zealand in the early 1930’s and was a member, selector and former president of the cricket council and founding member of the Cricket Foundation.

Jack was knighted in 1977 for services to the travel industry, commerce and the community. On receiving his knighthood he was quoted “This sort of thing is not achieved alone. I have had tremendous assistance from many people over the years in the things in which I have been involved. I have just headed these things, that’s all.”
Jack retired in 1980 enjoying his retirement in his hometown of Nelson, passing away on 23 September 1996.

Accepting the award in honour of Sir Jack was his Grandson Nigel Newman-Hollis and his Great-Granddaughter Sarah Newman-Hollis.

James Black
Trevor Woolston