If you’ve got grass, Graham Peacocke and his son Andrew are your men – they’ve been providing Kiwis with ultra-manoeuvrable mowers for 30 years.
WORDS LAURA TUCK / PHOTOS BRYDIE THOMPSON
Although its signature ‘Beige Brigade’ colour scheme is reminiscent of cricket’s 1980s glory days, local family business Zero Turning Radius Mowers has continued to adapt over the past three decades.
“You’ve just got to own those colours!” laughs Graham Peacocke. “We’re proud of the brand we’ve built, and the fact we’ve now been here for 30 years is something worth celebrating.”
Graham is your typical down-to-earth Kiwi bloke with a contagious smile. After running ZTR Mowers for 30 years (10 of which have been alongside his son, Andrew), he’s seen Tauranga transition from a sleepy, quiet town to a lively hub for business and leisure.
“The lay of the land has changed a lot over the past few decades,” he says. “Of course, we’re still surrounded by orchards and farms, but lifestyle blocks are starting to replace rural spaces. Although the landscape is changing, people still need high-quality mowers, and our experience in the agricultural sector allows us to genuinely understand our customers.”Given he hails from the mighty Waikato, it’s no surprise that Graham has a farming background. “I’ve done it all,” he says. “I started farming sheep and cattle, then had a maize business before moving to Tirau to manage a family farm. In 1978, we followed the kiwifruit boom over to Tauranga and bought a 160-acre dairy farm, which we converted into a kiwifruit orchard.
“I eventually sold my share and bought a farm in the Kaimai Range. The boom started in 1982 and things were going well – until 1987, when the sharemarket crashed.”
The timing wasn’t ideal for father-of-four Graham to be introduced to the piece of machinery that would soon become his passion, but it didn’t stop his neighbour, ZTR Mowers founder Peter Mitchell, popping next door to show him what he was missing.
“I was very impressed, as ride-on mowers were quite a new concept back then, but I couldn’t afford it,” says Graham. “I asked the other partners if they’d be keen to chip in, and they were all hesitant, but a year later, Peter wanted to sell his share of the business, so I decided to buy in.”
The other share was passed on for a few years before it was sold to Andrew in 2007. “I’d just spent six years in banking in the UK,” says Andrew. “When I came back to New Zealand I was sick of flying a desk, so I jumped at the opportunity to get into business with Dad.”
ZTR Mowers first brought the zero-turning radius concept to New Zealand in 1987 with the Dixon (and later the Grasshopper) ride-on mower. “A mower with a zero-turning radius is fast, robust and highly manoeuvrable, because it can turn on the spot, so it’s ideal for farms, orchards and lifestyle blocks,” says Andrew.
“We’re known for our heavy-duty FrontMount and MidMount commercial-grade ride-on mowers,” he continues. “Our MidMount model features a cutting deck underneath the mower, which is perfect for farms, lifestyle blocks and schools. Then there’s the FrontMount model, which is great for avocado and kiwifruit orchards, as its deck can swing under low branches with ease.”
“We sell high-quality products that we truly believe in,” adds Graham. “We’re the importer and distributor of the brand, and we cover the entire country. The added benefit to local customers is the expertise and parts we have on hand for whenever they need them.”
Working closely day in and day out, Graham and Andrew have an unwritten rule for whenever they’re not at work. “We love what we do, but whenever Andrew comes to stay, we try not to talk about the business,” says Graham. “It’s actually a lot easier now that little Alasdair [Andrew’s son] is here – he’s quite the distraction!”
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