Have you ever seen heavy machinery used to crack open a beer, pour a cup of tea or slam dunk a basketball?
Many of these crowd-pleasing challenges will be on show in Feilding later this week when New Zealand’s best excavator operators compete for the national title at the Civil Contractors New Zealand CablePrice National Excavator Operator Competition.
The annual event, now in its 27th year, will take place on 19-20 March during the Central Districts Field Days at Manfeild Park in Feilding. Eleven regional competition winners from across New Zealand will join defending champion Riki Lum as they are put through a series of entertaining and challenging tasks to find an overall winner.
These tasks range from tests of ‘real-world’ skills such as traversing a trench or lifting and relocating a manhole cover, to crowd-pleasing tests of precision such as popping a champagne bottle using an excavator’s bucket, and slam dunking a basketball into a two-storey concrete pipe. The competition also tests competitors’ planning and health and safety skills in an effort to find the all-round top operator.
Mr Lum said he was looking forward to his first title defence after winning the 2019 title. The Whangarei-based excavator operator works for Clements Contractors and is a member of the Ngāpuhi iwi. Also a carver, he has earned a reputation as an artist with steel and earth. But this year he will face a field of exceptional talent, including 2018 National Champion Troy Calteaux of Andrew Haulage 2011 Ltd in Otago.
“It’s wide open this year,” Lum said. “Last year I was pretty lucky with the One-Day Job Challenge because it focused on the health and safety side of things and I do a lot of that. I didn’t have any pressure but there’s a bit of expectation this time. It creates a few more nerves.”
Civil Contractors New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock said the competition’s mix of entertainment, skill and high-tech machinery would provide a highly entertaining spectacle.
“Every year the competition gets bigger and better. It’s an ideal way to showcase the outstanding skill of New Zealand’s excavator operators and the capability of the impressive machines they operate. Whether you’re considering a career in the industry, or just looking for a fun day out with the family, this is the place to be.”
The Platinum Sponsor for this year’s competition is CablePrice, which provides and services the Hitachi Zaxis excavators the competitors operate during the event. Other major competition sponsors include Attach2, BeforeUDig, Connexis ITO, Contractor Magazine, Doug the Digger, First Gas, Hirepool, Humes, Major Oak Group, National Driver Training Centre, Pirtek, RobLawMax and Z Energy.
An EPIC Careers Hub will be at the Central Districts Field Days from 18-20 March, featuring virtual reality, a truck-mounted excavator training simulator from Major Oak Group, a Connexis digital excavator simulator and a RobLawMax Excavator Experience for adults and teenagers on a 13-tonne Hitachi excavator. These will give people considering a career in civil construction a chance to test their excavator skills – and find a job or training with the civil construction companies attending the event.
The civil construction and maintenance industry carries out billions of dollars of work annually, employing more than 60,000 workers, including excavator operators.
The industry is expected to employ thousands more workers in coming years following the Government’s decision to invest in infrastructure as a means of modernising New Zealand and leading the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This investment includes spending on new large-scale transport projects and significant investment in New Zealand’s water infrastructure.
In addition to the National Excavator Operator competition, Civil Contractors New Zealand will host a mini-dig with the Doug the Digger Roadshow, while collecting money for charity. Children over the age of two will have a chance to operate a small excavator under supervision.