Septimus Trainor Owen (OBE) was a Major in the New Zealand Military during the second world war, stationed in the Pacific Islands. He was an entrepreneurial fellow and, in addition to his noteworthy military service, managed to convince the US Army to gift their roading and earthworks machinery, used during wartime, to New Zealand.


During the 1920s, Septimus’ father had travelled to England and secured a license from Royal Dutch Shell to manufacture and distribute bitumen & emulsion in the South Island.


New Zealand Highway Constructors Ltd. was established in 1928. Utilising this licence, along with the machinery from the war, NZ Highway Constructors forged the roading industry throughout the South Island. Thousands of drums of bitumen were imported into Dunedin Harbour on ships and were distributed throughout the region to form roadways in what was then a fledgling industry. Used bitumen drums were then heated, cut down, and rolled to form corrugated iron. This was sold as roofing iron and was used throughout Otago and Southland for housing. Given the prolonged exposure to bitumen from the inside of the barrels, it was some of the hardest wearing and weathertight roofing material available at the time. For his enterprising efforts Septimus was awarded an OBE in 1946.


NZ Highway Constructors ceased trading in 1952. In order to continue utilising the bitumen license and begin manufacturing, Road Materials Ltd. was established in April 1956. Our foundation shareholders were Eric Lundquist, Septimus Owen, John Owen, Jules Fulton, Bob Hogan, and Ralph Maxwell.


Throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s Road Materials primarily supplied bitumen emulsion products to the expanding roading and civil works industries (Bitufix was our proprietary brand of emulsion at the time). Millions of litres were supplied annually by the end of the 1970s. Basic work wear and footwear were added to our product range towards the end of this period. 


During the post-war years it was almost impossible to source perfume locally. Our founders spotted a gap in the market and decided to begin importing Egyptian Lavender Compound from the Bush Company of London. They approached the head chemist from Speights Brewery and secured a reliable supply of (extremely high strength) ethanol. The two ingredients were combined into a top secret proprietary blend and House of DeCospra Lavender Water was born. Thousands of bottles of this were sold to the public during the 50s and 60s at 1 shilling & 6 pence. To this day, this is probably the most unique, unexpected and brilliant product we have ever supplied!                                                    


By the late 1970s, work clothing and PPE were becoming increasingly larger portions of Road Materials business and this trend continued throughout the 80s and 90s. Distribution of emulsion ceased in 1987 and from this point onwards Road Materials (now trading as Road Materials Workgear) was a specialist supplier of work clothing, footwear and safety PPE.

Roger & Anne Owen purchased the company in 1997 and became the 3rd generation of the family to run Road Materials Workgear. They brought with them a fresh approach and for the first time secured national work wear and safety supply contracts with several large NZ companies. They also significantly expanded the range of brands we stock during this period. Their business approach, centred around service and sustainable growth, saw the company succeed and expand throughout this period.   


Today, Road Materials Workgear continues to grow and expand. We have one of the largest ranges of work wear, footwear and safety PPE in the country and offer our customers true independent choice and product advice. We have always been independently NZ owned and operated throughout our history and this is set to continue with the 4th generation of family about to take increased management roles within the company.


We pride ourselves on our ability to implement and deliver complex supply agreements in a timely fashion, to specification, at scale. We have a diverse client base, ranging from small businesses to many larger organisations with multiple operations throughout the country.


We currently operate out of 2 mixed-use facilities that combine showroom and warehouse spaces in Dunedin and Cromwell, Central Otago. We have account and territory managers that travel throughout New Zealand to service our clients nationally. Our experienced team of industry professionals are rewarded for the quality of service they provide to our customers, not for pushing products.  


We build lasting relationships with our customers and suppliers – we believe we have been successful because we consistently provide solutions which solve problems for our customers.


One of our founding shareholders, Eric Lundquist, had a saying he loved; “Forget history at your peril”. We are incredibly proud and mindful of our company’s history. Throughout, we have been a supplier that listens to our clients and delivers the solutions they ask for. We strive to do this every day.

Here's how we could help your business - Our Services.


* indicates required