Connecting New Zealand

Action man Ben Jones is Wellington’s new excavator champion

02 Mar 2020

Upper Hutt’s Ben Jones was named the Wellington and Wairarapa region’s champion excavator operator following a battle of earth, steel and wits at the Civil Contractors New Zealand CablePrice Regional Excavator Operator Competition on Saturday 29 February.

The competition was held at the Upper Hutt Summer Carnival in Trentham with talented excavator operators navigating an hour-long course of challenges, including crowd-pleasers like the teacup pour and electric wire as well as more conventional tasks like a manhole cover transfer and loading earth onto a truck with speed and efficiency.

With four years’ experience in previous regional excavator operator competitions, Jones was first on the course in the drizzling rain. His familiarity with the course and challenges saw him slam-dunk a basketball into a two-storey concrete pipe with pin-point accuracy using the excavator bucket. But to take the title, Jones said he had to lift his game by about ten per cent across the competition course compared to previous years.

Originally from the UK, Jones moved to Wellington from Hull in 2006, but speaks fluent Kiwi. At 27 years of age, he works as a site foreman for Action Civil, leading teams working on drainage and subdivision projects. He said his recent work planning projects was a big advantage in a competition that required careful thought, complementing his precision skills developed through nine years’ experience working as a heavy equipment operator.

“I spend a lot of my time on a digger, but the biggest thing for me about operating an excavator is planning – knowing what to do before doing it. We work on some deep trenches and it’s important to know how to work safely as well as quickly.”

Hosted by the Wellington Wairarapa Branch of national association Civil Contractors New Zealand, the competition is one of 11 regional championships. Jones will go on to represent the Wellington Wairarapa region at the 26th CCNZ CablePrice National Excavator Operator Competition from 20-21 March.

Held at Central Districts Field Days in Manawatu, the national competition will see Jones take on other champions who have won other the right to represent their regions, in addition to Defending Champion Riki Lum, who will defend the title he won at the 2019 national final.

While it may be his first time competing in the national event, Jones hoped his solid approach to planning and competitive spirit would serve him well in his quest for victory.

“I’m really looking forward to nationals. I’m not just there to make up the numbers – I’m there for the win.”

William Higgins of Legacy Contracting took second place in the competition. Third-placed Alex Boon from Ultra Contracting was the only contestant to achieve the egg challenge for a second year running, picking up and placing an egg on a hole the diameter of a two-dollar coin without breaking it.

Another event highlight was a third consecutive victory in the Tudor Distributors Barrel Filling Competition for Daniel Renshaw and his team from Daniel Renshaw Drainage. Renshaw said defending the title was ‘a great birthday present’. The event saw seven teams of three competitors compete to fill 40-gallon drums with earth using shovels in the fastest time.

Competition organiser Eddie Carson of regional contractor E Carson and Sons said he was proud to be part of a competition that gave the next generation of skilled excavator operators a chance to develop their skills.

“Best of luck to Ben, and we’ll all be cheering him on at nationals. Thanks to everyone that chipped in. It’s great to make this event happen. It gives the young guys a chance to show their skills and do something a bit outside the box. It’s a great day out for everyone involved.”

State-of-the-art Hitachi excavators were provided for the competition by Platinum Sponsor CablePrice. Other sponsors included Assess It, Crediflex, Hirepool, Holcim, Humes, Real Steel, Zip Plumbing and Z Energy sponsored the course. Local contractors Advanced Siteworks, Daniel Renshaw Drainage, 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, giving children a feel for what it’s like to operate an excavator and raising money for the Children’s Cancer Foundation.

A gallery of photos from the event is available online at the CCNZ Facebook Page>>




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