Hawke's Bay contractor Steve Galbraith top excavator at Field Days competition

Steve Galbraith demonstrates his painting skills using a excavator.
Sonita Chandar/FairfaxNZ

Steve Galbraith demonstrates his painting skills using a excavator.

Hawke's Bay contractor Steve Galbraith threw down the gauntlet to his fellow competitors in the Civil Contractors New Zealand (CCNZ) National Excavator Operator Competition held at the Central Districts Field Days in Feilding.

Galbraith managed to fend off stiff competition from the others, who have been giving him a bit of stick for being too "old".

"Geez I am only 39 and those guys are all in their 20s.

Threading a log through tyres then balancing it on another log was a new challenge for competitors.
David Unwin/Fairfax NZ.

Threading a log through tyres then balancing it on another log was a new challenge for competitors.

"I remember a time I when I was the youngest but now am the oldest. Experience has got to count for something."

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"I am really keen to come back next year and make it three in a row – it hasn't been done before and that will show them.  They are a great bunch of guys though."

Upper Hutt's Lochlan Zimmermann has a turn in the excavator dunking for drinks.
Peter McDonald

Upper Hutt's Lochlan Zimmermann has a turn in the excavator dunking for drinks.

Galbraith competed against nine of the country's top excavator operators, including his good mate Sam Scott from Palmerston North, to take out the title for the second year running  proving his advanced skills in all aspects of excavator operation during the intense two-day competition.

"Every time we have competed against each other, we have finished within a few seconds of each other.

"I actually thought he was going to win the title and I would have been happy with that. If I was going to lose to anyone it would be Sam."

Steve Galbraith (foreground) and Sam Scott dunk a basketball during the
Civil Contractors New Zealand (CCNZ) National ...
Kelly-Anne Galbraith

Steve Galbraith (foreground) and Sam Scott dunk a basketball during the Civil Contractors New Zealand (CCNZ) National Excavator Operator Competition held at the Central Districts Field Days in Feilding.

Galbraith admits to being a 'nervous wreck' during the competition. 

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"I was pretty worried the whole time.

"When you are the defending champion, there is only one place to go and that is down."

He won at CDFD last March prior to that had two third placings at nationals from five attempts. He has competed at the Hawkes Bay regional competitions a dozen times. 

Galbraith worked for Gair Contracting for 20 years and was Napier operations manager before recently establishing his own company Galbraith Earthmovers.

New Zealand Contractors' Federation executive officer and competition manager, Malcolm Abernethy, said "Galbraith's repeated participation in the event shows a very strong commitment as it a hotly contested event and competitors are under extreme pressure over the two days."

"Steve demonstrated a very high level of skill, knowledge and professionalism. He was strong in all events but did particularly well on the second day during the One Day Job section. 

"Over the 23 years we've been running the competition, we've seen how it fosters enthusiasm for excellence among operators."

He also said while the boys were seriously competing, the aim was to put on a show.

"The point is to showcase what we do.

"Excavating is all about digging holes.  However, a lot of the stuff these guys do in their every day jobs requires a high degree of finesse so this why we will get the competitors to pour a cup of tea - to show off those fine skills."

In front of large audiences at Field Days, the ten competitors had to impress the judges not only with highly advanced excavator operation techniques, but also with their knowledge of health and safety precautions and planning.  

1. Main course – competitors completed more than a dozen activities in 60 minutes using 13-tonne Hitachi excavators, including pouring a cup of tea, slam dunking a ball and a series of excavation exercises.  A novel new challenge was to lift two scraper tyres balanced on a log and balance it on a log stub;

2. On the first day of competition competitors drilled and placed fence posts, balanced rails on top and dug trenches with a 5.5 tonne Hitachi excavator;

3. Emergency scenario – contestants had to respond well to a realistic emergency situation involving first-aid skills and emergency response;

4.  'Gerald the Giraffe, the CablePrice Digger' event – competitors were judged on how well they briefed young children to operate Gerald, a 1.7 tonne Hitachi mini digger; 

5. 'One Day Job' event – competitors had to construct two ponds, using Hitachi 5.5 tonne excavators, with a connecting water feature in just 45 minutes. The task was equivalent to a normal full day job.  In addition competitors provided a price and methodology for the job.

"The challenges were designed to demonstrate their operator skills and industry knowledge to the limit."

Scott took out second place for the second time while third place went to Brandon Crowley of Whakatane, who also received the Contractor Magazine 'One-Day Job' award for the best planning and construction of the pond project.

Jason Toomer-Reti of Manuwera received the Humes 'Good Bastard' award for having the right attitude.

Sponsored by Cable Price, the competition aims to raise the profile of a growing industry that is increasingly embracing new technology. The construction and maintenance industry carries out $12 billion of work annually, employing 60,000 workers including excavator operators. 

The competition is organised by the Manawatu branch of CCNZ and other major event sponsors include Cable Price – Hitachi, Humes, Hirepool, Z, First Gas, Connexis, Attach2 Equipment and Contractor Magazine.

 - Stuff

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