Ian Patchell

Ian Patchell 

Ian Murray Patchell was born in 1949 and grew up on the family farm in Ngakuru near Rotorua.

Ian spent his formative years working for his father on the farm and developed the entrepreneurial spirit that would play such a big part in his life. At 12 Ian was employing his own crew picking up hay bales and driving his father’s truck to transport them. Welding was first learned by repairing a broken Bakelite wheel on his cast-iron toy truck using a magnifying glass and the sun as a make-shift welder to weld it back together.

Ian left school at the age of 17 and, after various jobs in Rotorua, left in 1969 to pursue a career as a boilermaker at Kinleith Mills in Tokoroa, establishing himself as one of the top boilermakers in the country. To this day, Ian still takes pride in the skill and craft of being a boilermaker and will often describe himself as one.

In 1972 Ian returned to Rotorua and started a small engineering workshop in View Road, initially focusing on the repair and manufacture of attachments for bulldozers, loader equipment, and repairing log transport equipment for local contractors.

In the early 80s, after repairing repeated failures in other manufacturer’s trailers, a collaboration by Patchell with transport company owners and customers from Rotorua, Kawerau, Tokoroa, Taupo and Napier, Patchell produced some most innovative light tare trailers of that time, utilising high-strength materials now used by most other manufacturers today.

In 1986 Ian fitted the first onboard weigh systems into log transport equipment and in 1995 formed the well-known NZ onboard weigh system company SI-Lodec, further advancing the transport industry and Patchell’s reputation for ground-breaking innovation.

By manufacturing its own on-and off-highway logging trailers and in-forest tracked log loaders and attachments with an emphasis on quality, design and service, Patchell became a leader in New Zealand transport equipment manufacture.

In 2004, Patchell added a stainless tank manufacturing division and, in 2005, procured the highly regarded Swinglift container side loader. With this depth of practical experience, excellence in engineering design, production and manufacture and commitment to “getting it right first time”, Patchell was in a unique position to meet challenges from the container, log trailer and liquid food-grade stainless tank trailer environments for years ahead.

Ian is a founding member of the NZ Log Transport Safety Council. In 2007, he was sworn in as a Justice of the Peace and, in 2019, took out ‘Businessman of the Year’ at the Rotorua Business Awards. In 2020 he was inducted into the ‘Hall of Fame’ at his old alma mater, Rotorua Boys High.

In 1991, Ian Patchell made a mandate to retain an annual count of at least 10 percent of their labour force in apprenticeships, retaining their level of quality tradespeople and workmanship. In 2014, with the implementation of automation, Patchell produced the first of six robots to work in its production.

Launching this year is the Rotorua Boys High School Engineering Trades Academy, a Patchell Group partnership reconnecting Ian with his school and bringing to fruition Ian’s vision of delivering highly skilled tradesmen.

Five decades later, the Patchell Group is among Rotorua’s largest employers. Ian is quick to acknowledge the hard work and skills of the team he has built around him. He prides himself on employing many of the best in the business and whether they remain at the company or not they remain ‘Patchell People’ and he is immensely proud of them all.

Ian is still active in the business and is often seen in his workshops running the practised eye of an ageless ‘Boilermaker’ over the products his companies produce.