Wellington finds its champion excavator operator


Blair Hartle was named the Wellington / Wairarapa region’s top excavator operator following a close-fought Regional Excavator Operator Competition held at the Upper Hutt Summer Carnival at Trentham Memorial Park on Saturday.

Hartle, 29, works as an excavator operator on the Transmission Gully project for Kāpiti-based civil construction company Goodman Contractors. Despite the win, he felt it was difficult to achieve a perfect run on the hour-long course.

“I’m blown away. I did not expect that at all. I thought I did alright for the first half, but the second half was tough.”

Organised by the Wellington branch of national association Civil Contractors New Zealand, the competition saw twelve top excavator operators from across the region’s civil construction companies navigate an hour-long course to test their skills against one another.

Despite Hartle’s victory, an already-booked trip to Australia means he won’t represent the region at nationals, held at Central Districts Field Days in March. That honour goes to last year’s regional champion Jaden Field, 25, a Carterton resident working for Fulton Hogan who took second place and will represent the region at the national competition once more.

“I’m stoked to be representing the region again,” said Field. “It’s a shame Blair can’t make it, but I know I’ve got the skills. A lot comes down to nerves. Last year I was nervous. This year I was happy with my round… Thanks to CCNZ. This year has been amazing.”

Tasks in the course ranged from slam-dunking a basketball into a two-storey concrete pipe to placing an egg on a road cone using a 20-tonne Hitachi excavator – a challenge achieved for the first time in three years by Alex Boon from Ultra Contracting. Hartle navigated an electrified wire with a hoop attached to the excavator arm with careful composure and Caleb ‘Schoolboy’ Nicholas of CCL poured the perfect cup of tea. James Sokalski of JPS Earthmoving took on tyre stacking with style, deftly flipping tyres into the excavator bucket. Brody Andrew of Fulton Hogan took third place with a solid all-round performance.

CCNZ Wellington Wairarapa Branch Chair Eddie Carson said the competition had been close-fought, and all of the competitors had performed to an excellent standard.

“This year was a really tight competition. I’m proud to see the region do so well, and there’s not a competitor here that doesn’t deserve recognition for their performance.”

The event also included the annual Tudor Distributors Barrel Filling Competition, in which seven teams of three competitors vied to see who could fill a 40-gallon drum with earth using shovels in the fastest time. This year’s prize went to Team Action Renshaw, a joint venture between Daniel Renshaw Drainage and Earthmoving and Action Civil. Team Captain Daniel Renshaw said his team was ‘ecstatic’ to defend their second title.

State-of-the-art Hitachi excavators for the Regional Excavator Operator Competition were provided by CablePrice, while Humes Pipeline Systems, Z Energy and Hirepool sponsored the course. Local contractors Dews Construction, Juno Civil, E. Carson and Sons, CCL and Goodman Contractors also sponsored the event, providing course construction and judging.

A mini-dig for children was also sponsored by Chorus, Humes and Juno Civil giving around 200 children a feel for what it’s like to operate an excavator and raising nearly $400 for the Children’s Cancer Foundation.

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