THE RIGHT MOVE - Tinonee Bus Company

By: Anjali Behl, Photography by: Ben Hosking


OPERATOR: ABC magazine spoke to the men behind Tinonee Bus Company and Watsons Bus Company. Here Mathew Maidens speaks about how he and co-owner Nik Hauser are liking their new life and new business ventures in regional New South Wales.

THE RIGHT MOVE - Tinonee Bus Company
Maidens and Hauser are two very hands-on managers. They do not employ any admin staff, preferring to manage those tasks between them as well.

Nearly six years ago, Mathew Maidens was working as an operations manager for an aerial crop spraying company in Moree, NSW. One of his close friends in Moree, Nik Hauser, was running his own air-conditioning business at the time.

The two friends decided that they wanted to move to the coast and work in a business with more stable and set hours – resulting in them packing up their lives in Moree and moving 500km to Taree to set up their own bus and coach business.

For Maidens, the progression into the bus industry was natural, as his father operated a school bus in Moree for over 20 years. His mother still operates it to this day.

"This was the main drive to get into the bus industry," he explained.

Maidens and his wife, Shannon, along with Hauser and his wife, Sharon, set up Matnik Investments Pty Ltd in 2015 and, in July of the same year, bought the Tinonee Bus Company, along with its six buses and two Transport for NSW (TfNSW) contracts.

The original business was established in July 1987 when Ardel and Edna Rooney purchased five buses and a contract from the Bennett family, who had been operating for quite some time before that.

"Today, Nik and I are co-owners and co-managers of Tinonee Bus Company and Watsons Bus Company, with the support of our wonderful wives," said Maidens with pride.

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SOLID EXPANSION

In November last year, Maidens and Hauser purchased another local business – J Watson and Sons Pty Ltd. Operating as Matnik Investments Pty Ltd, and now trading as Watsons Bus Company the new business has its linkages dating over seven decades.

The old J Watson and Sons business had been operating the service for over 72 years.

In fact, in what is quite a beautifully fitting story in itself, members of the Watson family used to travel on those buses as children before growing up to operate them as owner-operators.

When Maidens and Hauser purchased the business they also took over five of its buses and one TfNSW contract.

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CURRENT OPERATIONS

Matnik Investments Pty Ltd currently operates 12 buses, three of which are Mercedes-Benz, four Hino, three BCI, one Toyota Coaster and a Mitsubishi Rosa Deluxe.

There is no preferred brand or make that the two partners favour more. It all comes down to factors like safety, reliability, longevity and aftersales service that defines their preference for a model or make.

For them, with an average life of a bus or coach being up to 11 years, there is always room to decide whether to stick to or move on from a brand.

Matnik Investments now has three depots – in Taree, Woodenbong and Kyogle – and a workshop facility in Taree. It currently employs 15 staff including casuals and permanent employees.

"Our main focus is the contract school bus and route bus services. We also do school charter and local charter for sports and excursions, etc.," said Maidens.

"Tinonee Bus Company provides services along the western region of Taree, including Krambach, Tinonee, Hillville, Mondrook, Tinonee, Wingham and Taree south, to a total of 17 schools.

"Meanwhile, Watsons Bus Company services the areas of Urbenville, Woodenbong, Grevilla, Rukenvale, The Risk, Wiangaree and Kyogle for up to seven schools."

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CHANGE OF PACE

Maidens and Hauser wanted a more organised and set routine at work when they decided to move on from Moree and, golly, is their day organised now!

"We reach the depot at 6.30am," Maidens explained.

"The first bus departs at 6.50am, with the remaining departing between then and 8.05am. All buses are back at 9am for morning tea and we take this chance to brief our drivers and have our safety toolbox meetings.

"The day is consumed with office work and local bus charter management. The afternoon school runs start to depart at 2.30pm and our last bus returns to the depot at 5.25pm."

Maidens and Hauser are two very hands-on managers. They do not employ any admin staff, preferring to manage those tasks between them as well.

It is a change of place and pace for them, but they are enjoying their new life, working in an industry that they are truly passionate about.

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PAST AND AHEAD

Tinonee didn’t escape the repercussions of Covid-19 and, like so many other bus and coach businesses, its charter work was severely affected during the start of the pandemic. However, the business escaped the worst thanks to some of its contracts that continued through the restrictions.

"Covid-19 hurt a lot of businesses. We were fortunate with our school contracts and continued to operate, although during lockdown some of our buses remained empty," said Maidens.

"We have had to implement a lot of changes to keep everyone safe and all our buses clean and sanitised. The good news for us is that passenger numbers are slowly increasing and the charter jobs that had been cancelled earlier are starting to increase again."

Maidens added that the small team at Tinonee is proud of the work they are doing within the community and take immense joy in their work.

"Every business has its challenges, but we work through them with our wonderful staff. We have a great team, which makes it that bit easier. It is rewarding to offer these services to the community who rely on them," he said.

"Our future plans are to continue to offer professional and reliable services and expand our business."

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