NZ Transport marks 40th

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 12:00 14/12/2012

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One of Manawatu's largest employers celebrates its 40th anniversary this month.

In December 1972 what is now known as the NZ Transport Agency contact centre moved from Wellington to Palmerston North.

It was part of the Post Office and has had several different masters over the years.

Now there are 350 people occupying the office in the Inland Revenue Building on Ashley St.

They answer about 35,000 phone calls a week - about 1.8 million a year. People call about everything from vehicle registrations to wanting to pay the toll on a stretch of motorway north of Auckland.

Today it's a modern operation, with computers and a great view across the city.

In 1972 there were no computers. Instead the seven floors in the centre's then Rangitikei St building were filled with ubiquitous filing cabinets.

Rosalie Orr, who now lives in Tauranga, was there from day one and remained for 32 years.

She still works for the transport agency and is the only original left from the 200 or so staff first hired, when it was a "different world".

There was a file kept on every registered motor vehicle in New Zealand - so much paper that three floors in the centre were used only to store documents.

Computers came in 1986 and all that changed.

Mrs Orr's first role was as a clerk. She would process fuel excise refund claims - back when it was possible to claim a refund on fuel used in a lawnmower or anything off-road - and mileage claims.

It was a 24-hour operation back then as night shift workers on telex machines would be ready to provide the police with vehicle information as required.

Another interesting development was the introduction of personalised plates in 1988.

"Where else would you get a national-based business that happened to be in the region," Mrs Orr said.

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- Manawatu Standard

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