Local bus company Pavlovich Transport Solutions and Services is celebrating a major milestone this month, having reached 75 years of business in Hamilton.
The business has come a long way from small beginnings as the provider of the first school bus route between Whatawhata and Hamilton.
Today, 75 years on, Pavlovich has grown to operate a fleet of more than 70 buses and coaches nationwide. Its major Hamilton bus routes, The Orbiter, the free CBD Shuttle and Northerner, carry more than 1,500,000 passengers each year. It's Auckland Urban Express business carries more than 1,400,000 passengers each year.
Remarkably, the company is still family owned. Marco and Minerva Pavlovich introduced the initial school bus service in the 1930s, and their son Ivan Pavlovich is still a company director and his son, Bernard, the CEO.
"Our history matters because, for us, it's personal. More than seven decades later our company still operates under our family name. Many of our buses proudly carry our name, while often our buses bear the badges of our partners," Bernard said.
"This is, in some ways, an even greater responsibility, as those partners entrust Pavlovich to represent them. Irrespective, it's the Pavlovich name that makes the promise, and the Pavlovich history that stands behind it."
And the history he so fondly mentions is undoubtedly a rich one.
"My grandparents started the business off the back of a community need. Children from the Whatawhata farming community needed a way to and from school, hence Pavlovich Coachlines was born.
"Since then, our business has been based on the belief that a strong public transport system is at the heart of a thriving community. And there have been countless wonderful milestones to celebrate along the way."
In the 1960s the company began charter tours out of Hamilton. The first was a four-day Easter Tour embracing Gisborne, the East Coast and Bay of Plenty at an all-inclusive cost of about $45, including travel, accommodation and meals.
During this same decade, the company also purchased Robertson's Hamilton-Raglan service, shortly followed by the purchase of Brosnan Motors' Raglan-Auckland service.
"Later on, in the 70s, we imported the first Scania 'quiet bus' chassis into New Zealand. This was a very innovative move at the time. The bus had a noise of 77 decibels, almost half the noise level of other buses of the time," Ivan recalls.
"The 70s was also the decade we secured a tourist license - initially from Auckland and Christchurch, but later expanding to full tour rights out of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Picton. Transporting tourists all over New Zealand has since become an integral Pavlovich service and the luxury coaches synonymous with quality transport all over New Zealand."
In the late 90s, Pavlovich began its Urban Express bus division to provide public bus service in Auckland. This service, which still operates today, was established in addition to already operating tour work in Auckland.
2009 was a particularly momentous one for Pavlovich as the company secured a major bus contract with Waikato Regional Council.
"Today we have grown to operate a fleet of more than 70 buses and coaches nationwide ranging in size from 21-seat to 53-seat capacity. In transport vernacular, we are in business for the long haul," Bernard said.
"Our focus is still as clear as it has been for the last 75 years. Everything begins and ends with the customer and in focusing on being the best bus operator, not necessarily the biggest. Building a successful business is absolutely reliant on satisfied customers, and we look forward to continuing bus services in Hamilton, and across the country, for many years to come."