Connecting New Zealand

Meet this year’s champion excavator operators

13 Mar 2020

This year’s CCNZ CablePrice National Excavator Operator Competition will see an incredible level of competition, with two previous national champions returning to compete for the 2020 title.

Riki Lum of Northland’s Clements Contractors is this year’s Defending Champion, winning the 2019 event by a large margin. He will face off against the year’s champion operators from around the country, not least the Otago regional champion.

Troy Calteaux of Andrew Haulage in Otago won the 2018 national competition but could not attend the 2019 event to defend his title, putting family before fame to attend the birth of his child.

Thanks to this, Calteaux had to win the CCNZ Otago Branch CablePrice Regional Excavator Operator Competition once more, winning in style to get his ticket to compete at nationals once again. This means there are effectively two defending champions at the 2020 event, plus a full field of regional champions determined to claim the national title. Dan Mepham from Gair Contractors in Hawke’s Bay and Craig Crowley from Crowley Excavators in the Bay of Plenty are also returning regional champions from the 2018 competition. Henry Haukinima of Wharehine Contractors is competing as Northland’s regional champion this year, meaning the region has two chances to take the title, and the field is rounded out with top operators from across the country.

The CCNZ CablePrice National Excavator Operator Competition is now in its 26th year. The 2020 event will see Defending Champion Riki Lum and champions from 12 regional competitions compete for the national title. This year’s competition takes place at Central Districts Field Days from 19-21 March.

This year’s event will be livestreamed online for viewers for the first time. Don’t miss the action – tune in to on 20-21 March to watch the event live.

Meet the contenders

Defending Champion: Riki Lum, Clements Contractors
A true craftsman with earth and steel, Riki Lum is also a master carver. He won last year’s event in a landslide victory, pulling clear of his nearest rival in the one-day job challenge by 20 points. Riki hails from Northland, and has worked on a range of different projects, developing a reputation for excellence, efficiency and an artist’s touch.


Northland: Henry Haukinima, Wharehine Contractors
Henry started working with Wharehine back in 2006. Fourteen years on, he’s a seasoned operator. It’s his first time at nationals, and he hopes his sporting background and physical fitness will see him through.

Auckland: Tevita Tautua’a, Pipeline & Civil
Tevita might have started off in civil construction as a traffic controller six and a half years ago, but he’s proven himself a natural behind the controls of an excavator. He faced off against more than 30 competitors at the Auckland Regional Excavator Operator Competition on his way to nationals, scoring 286 out of a possible 300 points.

Waikato: Mike Bowe, Bowe Brothers Excavating
Mike Bowe is a three-time Waikato champion and an owner-operator with an eye for detail. He enjoys working on projects big and small, especially challenging hill sites which keep him ‘switched on’.


Bay of Plenty: Craig Crowley, Crowley Excavators
Craig is a veteran owner-operator who has been behind the controls since he was 18. Environmentally sensitive earthworks are his specialty. Many Bay of Plenty orchards and vineyards have been prepared by his hand.


Hawke’s Bay East Coast: Dan Mepham, Gair Contracting
Dan Mepham of Gair Contracting was a contender at the 2018 competition winning the one-day job and, missing out on nationals by a single point in 2019. This year, he’s hoping it’s third time lucky.


Taranaki: John Northcott, Graham Harris Ltd.
John is a globetrotting operator, having worked in London and taken on demolition jobs inside the Sydney Opera House. His wide-ranging experience has prepared him to take on any excavation challenge.


Manawatu: Neil Tau, Downer
Hometown hero Neil Tau won the Manawatu regionals over last year’s runner-up Jim Beamsley. While he’s nervous about having a big audience, watching his skills should be a real treat.


Wellington Wairarapa: Ben Jones, Action Civil
Action man Ben Jones is a site foreman who works on residential drainage and infrastructure projects. He was the first man to take on this year’s Wellington Wairarapa course. His work ethic meant he was also last to leave, working to clean up the site (and polish his skills in the process).


Canterbury Westland: Sam Gilchrist, Dormer Construction
Sam is passionate about excavators, and took every opportunity to get behind the controls from a young age. He sees great opportunity in the civil construction industry, and loves taking on a challenge.


Otago: Troy Calteaux, Andrew Haulage
Troy was the 2018 champion, but he put family before fame last year to attend the birth of his child rather than defend his title. This meant he had to win the Otago finals to make a comeback. He did it in style, proving he’s one of the very best and adding a second Defending Champion to the mix.

Southland: TJ Symons, The Roading Company
Plumber, gasfitter road construction worker – TJ has done it all. He learnt how to operate an excavator from his grandfather, who owned a civil construction company. Will his wide array of skills see him take the title?

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