Business leader honoured

12 March 2015
Bruce Plested

Bruce Plested has a lifelong relationship with education, despite leaving the classroom to go into business.

The founder and Executive Chairman of Mainfreight, New Zealand’s largest domestic freight forwarder and a global logistics provider which operates in 20 countries, was initially inspired to go into teaching by his mother.

Now the University of Auckland has honoured Bruce with a Distinguished Alumni Award.

“Being honoured by the University as one of their 2015 Distinguished Alumni was completely unexpected. The news came as a total surprise – and since then it’s been a catalyst for reflecting on my early days as a teacher, and ongoing association with Duffy Books in Homes and The Life Education Trust.”

Bruce is one of five graduates to be honoured at a gala dinner in the marquee on the Old Government House lawn at the University’s City Campus. The award winners will also spoke at Bright Lights: An Audience with Distinguished Alumni on Thursday 12 March. They discussed their aspirations and inspiration, their vision of the future in both their career and industry, and advice for people interested in their field.

After graduating in 1961 with a DipTchg from Teachers’ Training College, now part of the University’s Faculty of Education, Bruce taught at New Windsor School. He then went to work at Fisher & Paykel and studied accounting. His career in the transport industry began in 1970 at Container Freights.

In 1978 he started Mainfreight with a 1969 Bedford truck and just $7,200. Within a few years the transport industry was deregulated and Mainfreight opened branches all over New Zealand, later going global. Today the company employs 6,052 team members in 245 branches in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Asia and Europe.

Bruce credits teaching to some of his success in business.

“One thing that my teaching experience gave me was a willingness to be open to new ideas which has also proved invaluable in business.

“Although the precepts of quality and service remain as constants, the way we adapt to changing technology and customer expectations is what has kept Mainfreight moving up its growth curve through the years.”

Bruce is a fervent conservationist and recycler. He has planted more than 100,000 native trees on his Waiheke Island property. He is also passionate about breaking the cycle of poverty in New Zealand through education and is a long-standing supporter of the Books in Homes project run by the Alan Duff Charitable Foundation. In 2007, Mainfreight became a major sponsor of The Life Education Trust.

Mainfreight has had a 22-year relationship with Bairds Mainfreight Primary School in Otara, funding information technology, books, sports equipment, and uniforms. “Uncle Bruce” hosts students and staff at his Waiheke home each year.

“I remain convinced that education is the thing that can lift our children’s lives to be rewarding, useful and positive.”

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