Specialty pays off for concrete firm

IN DEMAND: From left, Steve Graham, Tony Graham and Gary Bouzaid of Able Mason with their concrete spray pump at the Clyde Quay Wharf.
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ
IN DEMAND: From left, Steve Graham, Tony Graham and Gary Bouzaid of Able Mason with their concrete spray pump at the Clyde Quay Wharf.

Concrete business Able Mason has grown rapidly since adding a sprayed concrete arm to its operations, which previously focused on block laying.

Gary Bouzaid started the business 25 years ago laying concrete blocks on residential and commercial construction projects around Wellington. He started getting into sprayed concrete and two years ago realised its wide range of uses had the potential to expand the business.

With Tony Graham on board as a director and shareholder, he officially set up the Able Mason Concrete business in early 2011. Since then, it has bought five concrete spray pumps and increased staff numbers to 10 employees.

Sprayed concrete is typically used on retaining walls, in culverts, channels, ponds and streams, for remedial and structural work and to control erosion.

Able Mason sprayed concrete on the walls of the Karori Tunnel and made the artificial rocks and stones in Wellington Zoo's panda enclosure. It also worked on the Countdown supermarket in Newtown, Wellington.

The company has worked on movie sets for Weta Workshop, creating cobblestone paths for The Hobbit.

"We do a lot of seismic strengthening at the moment," Miramar resident Bouzaid said.

One of its current seismic strengthening jobs is earthquake-proofing tertiary educational institute Weltec's Petone property.

The company has also done strengthening work on the Harbour City Centre and a Willis Street office building.

Recently Able Mason Concrete bought a $500,000 concrete pump from Italy that can spray 130 cubic metres of concrete an hour.

The pump was key to securing the contract to spray concrete at Clyde Quay Wharf, the luxury apartments development company that Willis Bond & Co is building on a finger wharf in Wellington Harbour.

"It is a really challenging project because we have to pump concrete for a floating slab under the water, sometimes we start at 2am because there has got to be a southerly and low tide. Our team go in there wearing life jackets while they're working. You're always aware of the environment, safety is a huge thing," Bouzaid said.

"Because it is under the wharf, there is not a lot of room to pour the slab. We then lower it down in place and waterproof it to be the car parking area. People will drive in underneath where the wharf is now."

Bouzaid said that before he started expanding into sprayed concrete seriously, he would never have imagined it would become as big for the business as it has, with $2 million turnover and equalling the staff numbers of the block-laying arm.

"The thing's grown so quickly, I don't know where it's going to end. We're just getting more and more of the market share."

Fairfax Media