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FERRY SERVICE IN NEW HANDS

It is now widely known that the Reubens Water Taxi and Ferry service companies have acquired new owners. The theme circulating around the Island has been about “Robert and Paul of Alert Taxis”.

But who are “Robert and Paul”? And what are their plans for the Island service? Why did they wish to purchase this particular business? What will this mean for us as Islanders?

Here is the word, straight from the mouths of Robert and Paul. They were pleased to be interviewed for this article, and throughout emphasised their commitment to working in well with all Island residents and visitors.

 

Tell us a little about yourselves?

“I am Robert van Heiningen”. “I am Paul Cafferkey” . We first met in 1989 when we were both driving cabs for Auckland Co-op Taxis. We became friends, became involved in the Co-Op management and in 2002 we purchased Alert Taxis in Auckland. Since then we have also acquired another seven taxi companies, from Whangarei to Christchurch. Our turnover has increased from $1.5 million per year to over $11 million. Our business model is successful and our focus is on organic growth, in part by purchasing like-minded businesses. We have had a policy of putting in state-of-the-art infrastructure and systems .

We have done extensive due diligence on the Kawau service, and are now involved in the intense learning curve necessary to operate a successful water-based taxi and ferry company.

 

What are your plans for the business?

Our plans are, first and foremost, to develop an efficient, safe service that will reflect the needs of Kawau Islanders on the one hand – who we well recognise are our “bread and butter” – and the growing tourist market on the other. Our primary support goes to our regular customers: you, the Islanders.

We think this business has tremendous potential and we recognise the huge loyalty that it already here, and plan to develop that.

Our freight systems are already highly ordered and very efficient – we recognise the crucial business needs of the resorts on the Island.

We are now looking at boat options. At present we are running the ferry and four taxis. The Kat will be taken out of the water over the winter and totally refurbished. However, we will also explore the possibility of a smaller, mid-size vessel, a sort of “baby-Kat”.

 

How will the service change?

In the short term – at least for the summer – there will be no change in either pricing or schedules. We need to clearly understand the needs of Kawau Island people; the business needs stability and a constant flow; people need to know where they are.

All the boats have been re-surveyed and we have attended to any deferred maintenance. Mechanical reliability and safety are very important to us. We have repaired two water taxis and all the boats are safe and running well.

All the water taxis will be equipped with state-of-the-art GPS tracking systems and bookings will be fully automated. The first stage of a new computerised system will be in before Christmas and completion of this is scheduled by the end of January.

We are very conscious of the need for effective communications with our customers – we have learned this very clearly from our land-based taxi operations. We realise that weather and other circumstances can affect schedules so we are introducing a phone or text system if a taxi is running late. There will be no more need for hanging about on wet cold and windy wharves wondering where your taxi is!

 

Will this be a short-term investment?

No. We grow our organisation and we retain our company assets in it. This is a long-term venture for us. We believe this business has tremendous potential.

What is the company culture you wish to achieve Professional. Efficient. Courteous. Available. Safe. Reliable. This is the basis on which all of our other companies operate. We plan to build some depth into our staffing, especially to manage the intense holiday periods.

We have a zero tolerance policy regarding alcohol and drugs, at all levels, in the business. This is written into staff contracts and any breach results in instant dismissal. However, we are starting with a clean slate: for all staff, new and old, this is a “Day One” beginning.

 

What will be your relationship with Kawau Islanders?

Strong and positive and communicative. Kawau Islanders are the essence of our business. We need to hear from you; we wish to communicate with you; and we wish this to be a partnership.

We are planning to hold a community meeting before Christmas, so that we can introduce ourselves to Islanders and so we can hear from you, the lifeblood of our business, exactly what your needs are.

Meantime, call by into the Ferry Office at Sandspit, introduce yourself, and we will be pleased to “welcome you aboard”.

- Written by Michael Marris

 

Read more about Robert and Paul here.

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