Kiwi ingenuity alive and well in the Naki

Only in Taranaki would you find old drill pipe, previously used in oil and gas programmes, being used as the foundations for two houses in suburban New Plymouth.

The two Tukapa St sections in the city suburb of Westown had been vacant for several years but Brian Martin Contracting Ltd recently moved a pile driving machine onto the small sections and started driving sections of the drill pipe into the ground to provide a firm foundation for the steel beams that are due to be welded on top once the differing heights of drill pipe have been evened out. Then construction of the houses proper can start.

“We could not use timber piles as the ground was too unstable and an engineer’s report recommended using the reject drill pipe, joining two sections together at a time and going down up to 24 metres,” says the firm’s managing director Brian Martin. “We successfully completed our part in this project in early August.”

And the man behind this innovative use of old steel drill pipe, as well as the construction of the houses, is well known Taranaki construction and property tycoon Willie Still, now aged 89, who is still one of four directors of Westwill Properties Ltd, a family business operated from the Kings Building in central New Plymouth, one of several buildings the company owns.

“We are doing this in stages, it’s a fill-in job between other projects, so we don’t know when it will be finished, neither do we know the likely final cost,” says Willie at the site.

“Outside of Taranaki we would have had to have used new and more expensive steel piles but here we have been able to use old, unwanted drill pipe, about 30 tonnes of it altogether.”

He adds that there is plenty of room on the sections, of about 700 square metres each, for two timber houses with three bedrooms and a double garage, as well as small lawns and gardens, to be built.

The other directors of Westwill Properties are Willie’s son Michael Still and daughters Glenys Waters and Jennifer Telfer, who says “he’s still doing extremely well for his age and the still one with all the knowledge”, referring to her father.

*This article was first published in Contractor magazine.

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