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Meet our excavator champions

07 Mar 2024


Twelve regional champions will compete in the CCNZ CablePrice National Excavator Operator Competition from 15-16 March at Central Districts Field Days in Feilding, challenging Defending Champion Troy Calteaux for the national title.

These champions have been victorious in twelve regional excavator operator competitions, held across the country to find New Zealand's top excavator operators.

Meet our excavator operator champions

Defending Champion: Troy Calteaux, Andrew Haulage 2011 Ltd 

Three-time champion Troy Calteaux from Andrew Haulage 2011 Ltd qualified for the event after winning nationals once again last year to equal the three national titles won by Gordon Fox in the late 1990s.

Troy is aiming to become the first person to win the event four times and said he was looking forward competing in front of a strong contingent of family who would be travelling up to support him. 

“I'm just trying to play it cool. This year will be make or break, but I'm happy with what I've achieved.

“Anyone can win it on the day – you’ve just got to treat it like a day at work. I hope either one of us from Otago takes it out and keeps the title down south.”

Northland: Steven George, Steven George Contracting

Owner-operator of Steven George Contracting, Steven was runner up in the CCNZ CablePrice National Excavator Operator Competition 2023. 

“I’m looking forward to the chance to test myself against the best of the best in the industry", says Steven.

“The most difficult part is the unknown, you don't know what you'll be doing until the day.” 

He qualified for the finals for the second time after his success in the Northland regional competition in December 2023. As an owner-operator, his day to day business is versatile, and he provides excavation and earth moving services to businesses in the upper North Island, doing “whatever can be done with a digger”.

Auckland: David Benioni, CB Civil

David Benioni (pictured, left, alongside Tim Andrew of CablePrice) qualified for the finals after his success in the Auckland regional competition in February.

He works for CB Civil and is currently working on earthworks and drainage for a KiwiRail project upgrading the rail network between Auckland and Pukekohe.

David said he was looking forward to the experience and learning as much as possible during his first ever outing at the national finals.

“I’m ready to show off my skills against the best of the best.

“It's awesome to be representing the Auckland region, I'm really proud.”

Waikato: Michael Brown, Fulton Hogan 

Michael Brown said he was relaxed about the challenge because excavator operation was what he did “day in day out”.

“If it's anything like the regionals it's going to be a good test. I’m proud to support my region and it’s great that my family will be there in support.

“I'm going to do some homework before I go down there by speaking with some people to try and figure out what challenges I might face at the nationals. If that goes well I should have a good chance.”

Brown qualified for the finals after his success in the Waikato regional competition in June 2023. He works for Stevenson, a division of Fulton Hogan, and specialises in bulk earthworks and quarrying. Brown normally drives large 50-tonne and 70-tonne excavators and has been operating excavators for more than 20 years. He said the next time he’ll be driving a 13-tonne excavator will be at the national competition.

Bay of Plenty: Lloyd Jenks, JME Contracting

Lloyd Jenks said he was “up for the challenge” and looking forward to finding out what the pressure of the finals was all about in his first year competing at the nationals.

He qualified for the finals after his success in the Bay of Plenty regional competition in June 2023, demonstrating progression after placing third in 2021 and second in 2022.

“I watched the regional excavator operator competition one year and thought ‘I can do that’.  Now I’ve won it and qualified for the nationals.

“I don’t know what to expect so I’ll just have to keep a calm head and think about things practically … it’s easy to get overwhelmed so I’ll have to break everything down and think about it simply.”

He works for JME Contractors providing a variety of civil infrastructure services to business across the Bay of Plenty. A keen mountain biker, he started out building mountain bike trails by hand and moved on to constructing tracks with an excavator, before getting into the civil construction industry - the rest is history.

Hawke's Bay East Coast: Thomas Perston, Quality Roading and Services 

Perston said perseverance was the key to his success, with this being his first trip to the national competition after five previous attempts at winning the CCNZ CablePrice Hawke's Bay East Coast Regional Excavator Operator Competition.

“I can’t wait to go and represent Hawke’s Bay and the East Coast at the nationals - the plan is to take out first place.”

He qualified for the finals after taking top spot in the Hawke’s Bay East Coast regional competition in October 2023. Perston works for Quality Roading and Services as a Construction Site Supervisor, but has been making time for plenty of excavator-skills practice since his regional victory to prepare for the national competition.

Taranaki: John Northcott, Graham Harris Ltd 

John Northcott has been to the national finals once before in 2021 and said he was looking forward to giving it his “best shot” and enjoying the experience.

“It’s exciting to be competing and pretty cool to be representing my region again. It’s always good to get to know the other competitors and see how they do things.”

Northcott qualified for the finals after his success in the Taranaki regional competition in November 2023. He has more than 20 years of excavator-operating experience - including working on a demolition job at the Sydney Opera House - and works for Graham Harris Ltd, where he specialises in earthworks for housing subdivisions.

Manawatū Whanganui: John McMillan, Loaders Civil

John McMillan qualified for the finals after his success in the Manawatū Whanganui regional competition last week, just two weeks out from the national final. He said he was looking forward to the challenge, showcasing his skills, and encouraging more people to get involved in excavator operating in future.

“I know the competition will throw a few curve balls my way - I’m just going to take every challenge as it comes, give it a good crack and have some fun doing it.

“I love this industry and I think the national competition is a great catalyst to get as many young people into civil construction as possible.

“The other competitors will travel from all across the country and they might have a few people in support, but being from the local area, most people will be flying that Manawatū-Whanganui flag and supporting me.” 

John has worked for Loaders Civil for five years as a foreman supervising construction projects and is currently building retaining walls in Te Oreore to stabilise State Highway 4 connecting Whanganui and Raetihi.

Wellington Wairarapa: Bronson Jones, Bryce O'Sullivan Contracting

Bronson Jones said it was daunting to be going up against New Zealand's best, but he was looking forward to the challenge and learning from the other competitors.

“I'm just privileged to be given the honour to go and represent the Wellington Wairarapa region – it’s a heavy responsibility.

“I don't know what to expect, just that they'll be some diggers and I'll be operating them.”

Jones qualified for the finals after his success in the Wellington Wairarapa regional competition in February. He works for Bryce O’Sullivan Contracting Limited as a foreman and grader operator, maintaining the region’s roads.

Jones was taught to use an excavator when he was 12 years old by his grandfather, a former civil contractor, and has 22 years of excavator operator experience. He dedicated his victory at the Wellington Wairarapa regional competition to the time and effort his grandfather invested in passing on his excavator skills.

Nelson Marlborough: Sam Mooney, Edridge Contracting

First-time contender Sam Mooney said he was feeling nervous, but also excited, and couldn’t wait to get to the nationals and give it his best shot.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting the other competitors and seeing how they operate – there will be a wealth of experience at the competition.

“I moved down to the Nelson region about two years ago and it's awesome. I’m proud to represent the region and hoping to win.” 

Mooney qualified for the finals after his success in the Nelson Marlborough regional competition in November 2023 – the first time he had competed. He works for Edridge Contracting and follows in the footsteps of 2021 Nelson Marlborough Champion Leslie 'Smithy' Smith, also of Edridge Contracintg.

Sam enjoys tackling large-scale earthworks across the Nelson Marlborough region: “My hobby is work and I love every minute of it”.

Canterbury Westland: Sam Burleigh, Thompson Construction and Engineering

Timaru local Sam Burleigh said he was looking forward to checking out the other operator’s excavator skills and, despite feeling “pretty nervous”, he planned to “give it a crack”.

“It’s an honour to represent my region – it’s not something that everyone gets to have a shot at.”

Burleigh qualified for the event after a strong placing in the Canterbury Westland regional competition in October 2023. He finished third in that competition but was chosen to represent the region at the nationals after the competition winner, William Mikaere, suffered a broken leg after a fall.

Sam works for Thompson Construction and Engineering building foundations for commercial developments and will be celebrating his 10-year anniversary this year.

Otago: Kaleb Hollands, Hollands Excavation

Kaleb Hollands of Hollands Excavation is competing at the national finals for the second time after winning the Civil Contractors New Zealand CablePrice Otago Regional Excavator Operator competition in January. His win at that competition continued a family tradition, with both his father Andrew, and uncle Carl, taking out the top spot in previous regional clashes. 

At 20 years of age, Hollands will be the youngest competitor at the nationals for the second year in a row, but he said he was going in with a positive attitude and looking forward to meeting the new competitors.

“I'm feeling less stressed now I have an idea of what's happening and a bit more experience - I know what I'm in for.

“I’m very proud to be representing Otago again.”

Southland: Brad Fallow, SouthRoads

Brad Fallow's daily work involves drainage, bridge building and bulk earthworks for SouthRoads. He qualified for the finals after a smooth victory in the CCNZ CablePrice Southland Regional Excavator Operator Competition at Southern Field Days in February.

He previously won the regional competition in 2016 but couldn’t make the nationals on that occasion because he had committed to attending a friend’s wedding.

Fallow said he was feeling slightly nervous, but also excited and was looking forward to it being “a bit of fun.”

“It will be good be good to meet other guys that enjoy driving diggers, every digger driver is different so it will be interesting to see how everyone does their thing."

 

 

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