Born in Greymouth on March 10, 1935, from an early age George had a pronounced aptitude for mechanical devices – particularly trucks.
Despite his father Arthur Wallis grooming George to join the family business in the timber industry, George had other ideas. A background in accountancy to prepare him for his timber career was superseded by a life behind the wheel, and his experiences driving an ex-Army GMC logging truck for West Coast transport operator Tom Croft of Stillwater, sealed the deal.
George purchased his first truck, an International SF174 in 1959, with interest free finance from Mobil Oil, and later became their agent and carrier for South Westland.
The Haast region was the last roading frontier in New Zealand, with the road being unsuited to heavy vehicles in the fifties and early sixties. The Haast River had to be forded, and out of necessity, George and his crew put in log-bridges that helped open up the West Coast and Central Otago to heavy vehicles.
In 1960, he and his father established Haast Timbers Ltd, which milled Haast logs at Luggate with the timber being marketed by George’s younger brother, Tim Wallis. After Arthur’s untimely death in 1961, George and Tim accepted Carter Merchant’s (later Carter Holt Harvey) offer to purchase cutting rights for Wallis timber, and George continued with the logging and timber cartage contract for Carters.
George formed Haast Transport Ltd in 1965, and with the purchase of B.H Cowan Ltd., in 1968, had two areas on his goods service licence and his subsequent activities greatly benefited the economy of the large region he serviced.
He established a freight run linking Haast with Central Otago, had five-trucks on permanent contract to the M.O.W. building the Haast road, carted deer
carcasses twice-weekly to Christchurch, supplied Mobil fuel and organised the livestock cartage for the massive annual cattle sales for the region. One of his proudest accomplishments of that time was when part of a steering committee, he was instrumental in creating a hydro scheme on the Turnbull River that provided power to the Haast region.
The Haast contracting business was sold in 1974 and he, his wife Jo, and the three children moved to Wanaka, however George continued hauling
freight and fuel from Cromwell to Haast.
Soon after, he purchased Wanaka Pastoral Products Ltd’s contracting equipment to undertake their harvesting requirements, and purchased the dehydrated lucerne pellet manufacturer when it went into receivership in 1976, and took up the pellet haulage to Timaru, for export to Japan. The
lucerne business eventually closed and he concentrated on running his agricultural contracting business from his Wanaka farm.
Together with brother Tim, Warbirds over Wanaka was created in 1988 – which is now the Southern Hemisphere’s largest Warbirds show. With like minded
friends, he was part of establishing the Warbirds and Wheels attraction at Wanaka airport displaying warbirds, classic cars and art.
George and Jo encapsulate the best qualities that the ‘Coaster’s are famous for – endurance, humour, innovation and hospitality.
The great sadness of their life was the passing of their son Neil at 33, who as an accountant with a great passion for transport working for Adams &
Currie Ltd. He was just hitting his straps when he was taken.
George is famously an International enthusiast, but his real legacy is as an innovator, who broke in the last frontier.
George’s induction and acceptance speech.
Some of George’s photos during his time on the coast…