When Roy Wade started a panel-beating business in Hamilton in the 1980s, he could not have foreseen that in 30 years time the company would be producing vehicles for emergency services in New Zealand and Australia.

That small business grew to become the Wade Group, with interests in equine transport and custom-designed emergency vehicles.

Their head office is still in Hamilton and the group, now led by his daughter Alyssa Lobb, recently won one of Australia's highest accolades for outstanding design and innovation at the Good Design Award for a new "booze bus" that is helping Victoria Police keep the roads safe.

Three of the high-tech Police alcohol and drug testing buses are already in operation and another seven are on order.


The multi-million dollar bus contract is the pinnacle of what has been a family affair for the company, starting when Ms Lobb was riding horses as a girl in Hamilton.

"My sister and I were horse riders so Dad said he would build us a horse truck and that is the direction the company went," Ms Lobb said.

Wade Group continues to produce equine coaches, which is the first market the family company tackled in their earlier days.

The company moved into the emergency vehicle market after success with the equine coaches, building ambulances and police transport vehicles.

Ms Lobb credits her Dad as the reason for the company's success and ongoing growth.

"I've learnt everything I know from my father. I think that he is very proud of where the company has gone. His attention to detail and quality is what I found beneficial when growing up in that environment."

Mr Wade is now retired, but still spends his spare time upgrading and maintaining the company's commercial buildings in Te Rapa.

Alyssa Lobb at the Good Design Awards evening at the Sydney Opera House in May. Photo / Supplied
Alyssa Lobb at the Good Design Awards evening at the Sydney Opera House in May. Photo / Supplied

Ms Lobb said she always saw herself working in the family business, with her love of horses providing a spark for it.

"I think when I was very young I always had a real passion for being an event rider.

I always had a keen interest on the horse transport side of things.

It was never really a question for me — I was always going to join the family business and worked well with my Dad."

Her most rewarding moment came on the 11th floor of the Victorian Police headquarters when the company signed a partnership with the police 18 months ago.

The bus's success was because of a joint venture between the companies Brimarco and Byron-Wade, who understood what the brief was and delivered what the police were exactly looking for.

Brimarco was bought out by the Wade Group in 2015.

They manufacture vehicles for defence and government in Australia, while Byron Wade is also part of the Wade Group and is a leading provider for Australian emergency response vehicles.

The vehicle will be used as a preventative action station to make the roads safer, but can also be used for other purposes such as a mobile command centre at emergencies.

The 12m version of the bus includes crew rest areas, multiple interview rooms, storage compartments for roading equipment and a flood light on its roof to help with its multipurpose function.

The company has an order for 10 of the new buses already, with a 10-year, multi-million dollar contract with the Victorian Police. While they are not in New Zealand yet, the public could possibly see them on the road in the future.

"There is an opportunity for the New Zealand police to piggy back on the contract."

"For New Zealand it could be a mobile first response vehicle instead of being a booze bus. There are so many different opportunities for it."

Winning the 2018 Good Design Award was the icing on the cake for Ms Lobb and Wade Group, as the company had three vehicles already on the road when the award was announced.

The Good Design Awards is recognised by the World Design Organisation as Australia's peak international design endorsement program and has been running for 60 years, with previous winners including movie director James Cameron and his deep sea submarine.

"We were up against some big household names, but it was an exciting opportunity to go to the Sydney Opera House and collect the award.

"We were very humbled by that recognition."

In the judges' comments they said the Alcohol and Drug Testing vehicle met, and in places exceeded, the original project brief in local design and material content, cost and delivery timing.