Born on the 16th of February 1920 in Te Awamutu, Bert attended school until the age of 13 when the Great Depression of the early 30’s bit deeply into the economy and he left to work on the family farm. In 1939 he joined the RNZAF, and three years later headed to Europe to serve as a Spitfire and Hurricane pilot during the Second World War.
Returning to New Zealand in 1945, he briefly returned to the family farm before approaching the NZ Forest Service with the idea of exporting Kaingaroa Forest timber from Tauranga instead of Auckland. Timber exporters, NZ Forest Products and NZ Forest Service were advised of considerable savings in transport costs to be gained by exporting through Tauranga, rather than Auckland, contributing to significant growth at the Tauranga Port. In 1949 Bert formed the NZ Lumber Co Ltd. The need for capital soon arose and in 1973 Anchor Supplies purchased a third of NZL’s shares, followed 10 years later with a third being purchased by NZ Shipping Corporation.
It was at this time the wood products side of the company split from the group to form Godfrey Holdings Ltd, leaving what was to become NZL Group Ltd to handle the cartage of dairy produce. In 1985 Bert sold the remaining shares to the existing NZL shareholders.
Bert was not one to shy away from new ventures. Back in the 70’s he was a Director of Forestry Shippers Ltd, a company formed with the blessing of Tasman Pulp and Paper to compete with the Union Steam Ship Company which had a virtual monopoly on the Trans-Tasman route. Two ships were brought and put into service to compete in this market. In 1975 Bert became Director of NZ Marshalling and Stevedoring Ltd, a joint venture between NZL and the local watersiders Union, an entity formed to combat ‘issues’ on the wharf. Then, in 1993 Godfrey Holdings began transporting resin in a deck tanker B-train and back loaded particle board – a first for New Zealand. This vehicle won ‘truck of the year’ in 1995.
In 1994, after many years of service in Rotary, Bert was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship.
At the time of Bert’s death in 2003, at the age of 83, Godfrey Holdings Ltd consisted of 90 staff based in Taupo, Rotorua, Tokoroa and Mt Maunganui. A forklift division remained at Tachikawa Sawmill in Rotorua. NZL is still going strong in 2013 with 150 trucks and 300 staff nationwide. The “Godfrey” group transport assets are now owned by the Dynes Group of companies based in Tauranga.