December 06, 2017

Meet Rowdy Aitken

Rowdy by name, humble by nature.

From the dairy owners, to the cheesemakers, the mechanics who change the tyres on the tankers or the café workers who steam the milk in thousands of flat whites across the country, we all have a part to play in making the dairy that is loved by so many.

Fonterra really is Made by Many, and some of this country’s most loved characters play a part in creating our delicious dairy.


Rowdy Aitken is one such character. He’s so well known in South Canterbury that he even got a mention one of our latest Many by Many TV ads. In fact, some might even go so far as to say that he’s a local institution.

Rowdy’s family run a transport company that helps connect Fonterra Clandeboye to the Port of Timaru where our dairy products and ingredients, like stretchy mozzarella, leave the country on their way into tummies across Asia and beyond.

Although indirectly, he’s been involved in the making of Fonterra for a long time.

More than 50 years ago, Rowdy was working as a truck driver in Timaru when someone approached him and three of his friends in a local pub and asked if they’d like to buy the existing Temuka Transport business.

“It was going into receivership”, Rowdy explains. “There were 18 trucks and only ten of them worked, but we took the plunge, put in a bid and won!”

Today Temuka Transport is one of New Zealand’s largest transport companies - having just celebrated its golden jubilee.

If you’d told all this to Rowdy when he was starting out he explains he probably wouldn’t have believed how much the business was going to grow.

He says key factors behind the company’s success have been good people, a supportive community and the growth of Fonterra Clandeboye.

“Transport is a hard business to get into and it’s difficult to maintain the standard but you learn from your mistakes and working with great people counts for a lot.  Many of them have been there for a long time - one of our drivers for 49 and a half years.”

“I’m personally very proud of that. We were just lucky to be in the district at the right time. There’s no doubt about it.”

“When dairy came into the district it brought huge opportunities. It used to be just sheep before that, but now there’s rail, sheds, storage, packaging and employment.”

Rowdy is quick to point out that he wouldn’t have been able to do anything without the support of his wife Margaret and sons - Garry (Gutsy) , Brian (Slim) and Brendan who are all still involved in the business today.

In 2008 Rowdy was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for outstanding services to the community and in 2014 he was inducted into the NZ Road Transport Hall of Fame.

“Receiving the QSM was a hell of a shock. The way my family and I look at it- if you’ve got business in the district then you’ve got to help the district. That’s just my motto, so I was pretty embarrassed to receive anything for it.”

In fact, Rowdy was so embarrassed to be recognised that when he received a letter in the mail asking whether or not he would accept his induction into the NZ Road Transport Hall of Fame he originally said no.

It was only after the organisers said that refusing the award was a blow to those people who had nominated him that Rowdy accepted it. He says hard work and a commitment to helping out the community is just something everyone should do.

“You’ve just got to get off your behind and do the hours. It was seven years before the wife and I had a holiday… nowadays that would be illegal!”

“It’s about taking opportunities and getting out and doing something for your community. Once they are behind you, it doesn’t matter where you end up because you know they have your back, and you- theirs.”

When you help the many, the many help you.