New Zealand’s ten champion regional excavator operators will board their excavators and battle it out at the 25th annual National Excavator Operator Competition, held at Central Districts Field Days in Feilding from 14-16 March 2019.
This year’s competitors:
Northland: Riki Lum, Clements Contractors
Returning Northland regional champion Riki Lum has 32 years’ experience in civil construction machine operation. He enjoys demolition most of all and is always excited when new technologies come into the industry. He has five children and nine grandchildren who he enjoys hanging out with, and he is also a carver.
“It will be good to meet up with others from the industry,” Lum said. “Last year was my first nationals but a lot of the guys have been a few times before. I’m not worried about the driving side of things but the other scenarios like first aid and preparing job quotes on the spot can be challenging.”
Auckland: Jason Toomer-Reti, ICB Retaining & Construction
Jason is a two-time Auckland regional champion who enjoys waka ama, touch rugby, fishing and really anything to do with the outdoors. What he really likes about civil construction industry is performing different tasks and not one day is the same as the other. He also values the continuing up-skilling.
“I’m looking to forward to winning it this year,” Toomer-Reti said. “I’ve been to the nationals once before and I didn’t know how long you had to do everything so I rushed it. This year it’s going to be a different story.”
Waikato: Rob Veltmans, Splice Construction
Rob is a longstanding competitor in the Regional Excavator Operator Competition, entering 10 times over the past 20 years. This is the first year he has made it to nationals, and he hopes it will be the year he takes home the national trophy.
“I’ve only just got back into competing after taking a bit of a spell”, Veltmans said. “The nationals will be a whole new level for me so I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”
Bay of Plenty: Brandon Crowley, Crowley Excavators
Brandon managed to take first place this year after a close competition with his father Craig, who won the previous year’s regional competition. He has worked in many different earthmoving areas including agriculture, horticulture, regional and civil construction. He is a passionate jet boater – recreational, commercial and racing! Brandon thinks the civil construction industry is brilliant with so many opportunities to develop many different skills.
“This will be my fourth time at the competition – I’ve competed three times and my dad won the regional competition and went to the nationals last year,” Crowley said. “The environment and the people there are great, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Taranaki: Callum Bamber, Offshore Plumbing Services
Previously a dairy farmer, Callum stepped up to win the re-formed Taranaki Regional Excavator Operator Competition in November 2018 – the first one held in the region for seven years. His passion is drifting. Construction has given him great opportunities and good day to day challenges.
“This is my first time at the nationals so I’m not too sure what to expect, but a big part of being a digger driver is solving problems and finding ways around challenges so I’m really looking forward to it,” Bamber said.
Hawke’s Bay East Coast: Tui Paikea, Quality Roading and Services
Tui is always up for a challenge and loves his work in the industry. He enjoys meeting new people and says he learns new things every day. He won the Hawke’s Bay East Coast Regional Excavator Operator Competition in November, beating the previous regional champion Dan Mepham by the narrowest of margins.
Manawatu: Jim Beamsley, Central Demolition
Jim has been employed at Central Demolition for the past four years. His favourite project was the AA building on Broachway. He thinks CCNZ’s competition is a great opportunity to showcase the skills excavator operators have to get the job done and show their passion about their work.
“I competed last year so I’ll have a fair idea of what to expect,” Beamsley said. “It’s great to be able to showcase our abilities to the public and I’m really looking forward to having home town support from friends and family. I love driving diggers man, it’s exciting.”
Wellington Wairarapa: Jaden Field, Fulton Hogan Masterton
Jaden has been an excavator operator for six years. He says the civil industry is great for ongoing learning and variety of work. Jaden is passionate about club rugby and played until he was unable to play any more due to a series of concussions. He has been involved heavily with the club ever since. Family is everything to Jaden, and he enjoys getting out and about with the kids, going to the beach or motorbike riding.
“This is my second time going so I’m looking forward to it,” Field said. “The biggest challenge during the competition is just getting on top of the nerves. This time I’m just going to focus on going out there to enjoy it, just doing what I do every day at work.”
Canterbury Westland: Kahen Wilson, Schick Civil Construction
Kahen has worked for Schick Civil Construction as a pavement foreman for nearly seven years, since he left high school. He started as a roller driver/shovel hand with his dad, who was also a pavement foreman. He spent a lot of time mixing in with other crews such as drainage, pavement and earthworks in Hamilton before he was given the opportunity to move to Christchurch where he runs his own crew.
Kahen prefers pavement work as he thrives on seeing the finished product, but also enjoys variety. Outside of work, his hobbies are spending time with his four year old daughter, jet skiing, snow boarding in the winter and free diving and fishing in the summer.
“It’s my first year competing so the whole thing will be a bit of a surprise, but I’m absolutely looking forward to it and I’ll give it my all,” Wilson said.
Otago: Josh Keane, SouthRoads
Josh has been in the construction industry for 14 years. He started off pushing a wheelbarrow and worked his way up to a machine operator jobs. Josh enjoys bulk earthworks jobs and final trimming. In his spare time he enjoys dirtbiking and camping.
“I last went to the nationals a couple of years ago so it will be good to go back,” Keane said. “It’s tough competition but it’s good fun and meeting other people from within the industry is great.”
CCNZ thanks the event sponsors
CablePrice is this year’s Platinum Sponsor. Humes have also reached another milestone year, supporting the competition since it first began 25 years ago. Other major sponsors include CivilShare, Civil Trades, Connexis ITO, Contractor Magazine, Digga NZ, Doug the Digger, FirstGas, BeforeUDig, Attach2, Hirepool and Z Energy.