Transport industry legend James (Jim) Barker, founder of the Jim Barker Group of Companies that includes Otorohanga Transport, Freightlines, and ferry service, Strait Shipping, died peacefully at his home in Mount Maunganui on August 28.
The 77-year- old businessman, who was last year appointed to the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the transport industry and philanthropy following an induction into the New Zealand Transport Industry Hall of Fame in 2012, will be remembered for his ‘people first’ approach to business.
Last December, after his Order of Merit appointment, Barker said he was of the belief that that first and foremost business was about people and he had been lucky enough to work with many great people. He said because of those people, along with his wife and family, his business was a success.
Daughter and Strait Shipping general manager Sheryl Ellison says her father’s death is a huge loss to the family, company and the industry he has served for over 50 years.
“My father’s contribution to New Zealand’s transport industry, the community where he lived and worked in, and the country he loved, has been immense. It is with much sadness that we say goodbye to a truly inspirational father, loving husband and business colleague and friend.”
James Barker was born in Ngaruawahia to Huntly coal mine worker James Barker Senior and his wife Hannah. He grew up in Pukemiro Junction and attended the local primary school at Rotowaro before moving to Huntly District High School at 12 where he was a school prefect, a member of the first XV, first XI and rowing crew. After high school he worked in a bank, then the coal mines in Huntly before moving to Mt Eden with his new wife Beverly in 1960.
In 1963 Barker and his brother-in- law Dennis Dow purchased Whittington Perry Ltd, a small transport company in Otorohanga, and renamed it Otorohanga Transport Ltd (OTL). Otorohanga Transport grew by meeting the needs of the rural community and 25 years on livestock and lime products were the mainstay of the business. Over the years a number of other acquisitions such as Pirongia Carrying Company, Lime Haulage, and Hilders Transport, assisted in the expanding of their livestock cartage.
In 1992, after becoming frustrated with the ferry service provided by NZ Rail, Barker, along with three shareholders, located the Straitsman ferry in Tasmania and Strait Shipping was born.
Freight Lines came next, with Patatere Transport 1999, Bulk Tranz 2002, Heath Stock Haulage 2004, Eagle Transport 2012, Te Kauwhata Transport and Streamline Freight.
In December 2002 the MV Santa Regina came into operation, offering a passenger service, known as Bluebridge, across Cook Strait.
The Barker Transport group now has Freightlines depots in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Nelson, Tauranga, and Tirau and livestock depots in Feilding, Otorohanga and Blenheim as well as freight and passenger shipping terminals in Wellington and Picton.
Barker is survived by his wife of 56 years, Beverly, children, Maree Barker, Sheryl Ellison, and Peter Barker, his 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
A celebration of Jim Barker’s life will be held at 1.30pm on Thursday September 1 at the ASB Arena, Bay Park, Mount Maunganui.