Archiving NZ Trucking History Media
Les MacKenzie was born in Middlemarch in 1941. In 1946 he moved to a farm at Waipahi. On leaving school at 15 Les spent 3 years working on the family farm before obtaining his heavy traffic licence at 18. His first driving job was with Popenhagen Bros (later Waipahi Transport), but his childhood passion was to be a policeman which he pursued, graduating from Police Training College in Trentham in 1961 and serving in Wellington, Invercargill and Mataura.
He married Hazel in 1964 and remained in Mataura until 1965 when along with his sister and brother in law they formed Clinton Transport Ltd, a small 3 truck operation.
In 1969 he took over full ownership of Clinton Transport Ltd continuing to service the districts growth in farming. T A Graham Ltd at Waiwera South was purchased in 1983 and merged with Clinton Transport Ltd providing a fleet of 15 trucks.
A 150km rail restriction allowed Les to expand his business significantly by buying and transporting coal from Ohai and Waimumu, mixing coal together and selling to clients in Dunedin. He was hounded and unsuccessfully challenged by the authorities on this process.
Les was renowned for placing a J2 Bedford front axle in front of all his tandem axles on trucks and trailers, turning them into four axle units and reducing road user charges hugely. Another of his processes which was unsuccessfully challenged by the authorities.
Around 1985 Clinton Transport Shell Service Centre was formed after the purchase of the liquidated assets of Clinton Motors, Shell garage and service station. This was sold in 1989 to his eldest daughter and husband.
He was elected in 1985 as finalist in the Dunlop Transport Operator of the year (medium size).
In 1992 Freight Database Ltd was formed when Les developed an innovative system, probably 20 years ahead of its time, to provide coordination of backloads for operators. Within 2 years it was sold to an Auckland operator.
Many years were spent involved in the South Otago Branch of the NZ Road Transport Alliance. The first conference was attended in Dunedin in 1966 at the amalgamation of the Alliance and the Carriers Federation. He later became President of the Otago Branch and in 1982 elected as Otago Representative of the NZ Council. After restructuring of the Council he became Director of the NZ Road Transport Association and from 1990 to 1993 served as Vice President. He was a Director and Past President of the Road Transport Co-op Otago Society and in 1993 was awarded life membership to the Otago Road Transport Association.
Clinton Transport was sold in 1993 at which point he purchased a small refrigerated truck selling dog and pet foods to the local farming community of South and West Otago. After huge growth, this business was sold in 1995. From 1994 to 2009 he ran the Clinton School bus runs and up until 2013 he supervised a small Balclutha bus operation. Les still drives on a casual basis for local contractors and drives buses when required.
He continues to serve his community as an active member of the Local Volunteer Fire Brigade and Past Chairman of the Clinton Community Committee for 15 years and Past President of the lions and Bowling Clubs