Merv Solly and Golden Bay Dolomite

May 2014

Merv Solly is a transport operator who also mines dolomite for agricultural use

Merv Solly has been in transport for 51 years.  It’s a business that he lives and breathes and a subject he’s very passionate about. As the third generation of Solly to hold the reins, Merv has had a close up view of the industry he services.  In the past few years he’s moved into assisting farmers with soil management.

The business was started by his grandfather, Ken Solly, in 1928. When Merv began at Solly’s he was working alongside his father, Trevor, who began in the 1950’s at the Collingwood depot.  At that time, the business involved traditional rural carriers’ work. Based in Collingwood in Golden Bay, the company was heavily involved in work for the surrounding farming community and the local dairy co-op.  The roads around Golden Bay were rugged and the trip over the Takaka Hill to Nelson was tough on the company’s Bedfords.

Solly’s Freight has given way to Solly’s Contractors and today encompasses farm contracting, land development, civil works, fertiliser storage and spreading, bulk products, livestock and freight transportation. There are two farms and a lime quarry along with four transport yards – Collingwood, Takaka, Richmond (Nelson) and Christchurch. For a long period Merv was involved in Sea Tow Ltd, promoting coastal barging as an alternative transport system.

The business has grown from seven vehicles and 12 staff, when he started, to over 40 trucks and 80 staff today – not including all the earthmoving and quarrying machinery.  Merv has managed this growth through some harsh economic times with the added challenge of being geographically remote.

Some family members have chosen to join Merv in the business, others have taken a different path. Merv’s son Ed is very much involved in the running of the green (trucking) side of the business.  The company keeps track of its trucks via Fleet Tracking software which can tell where vehicles are all over both islands  in real time.

Now Merv is left contemplating the future and how to pass as much of his vast knowledge to his family as possible, to ensure the smooth operation of the business.

The Golden Bay Dolomite Quarry 6km west of Collingwood is this country’s only commercial source of dolomite, a crystalline rock that contains calcium and magnesium carbonates.  Merv’s company bought Golden Bay Dolomite in 2007 and is working to build the business.

Dolomite is sent in bulk by ship from the nearby minor port of Tarakohe (site of the old cement works) to Whanganui where it is stored .

Interest in Dolomite has taken Merv on a journey of environmental soil management.  Along the way he’s become a big fan of what we now are calling biological farming.  He says that the farming community is only now just starting to scratch the surface of what can be achieved with this.   Merv gets involved in taking soil samples which are then sent to the US for analysis.