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Manawatu excavator takes out national title

Manawatu excavator takes out national title

Manawatu excavator Kevin Busch has won the Goughs & CAT Rental National Excavator Operator Competition, held at the Central District Field Days at Manfield over the weekend.

Mr Busch, an employee of Blackley Construction of Palmerston North, claimed the national title after two days of competition. Northland regional winner and defending national champion, self-employed contractor Kerry Barfoote from Pouto near Dargaville was second. Another self-employed contractor, Murray Nash, (Waikato/Bay of Plenty), was third. Originally from the Waikato, and the winner of the regional competition in 2003 and 2004, Mr Nash now operates out of Waipu.

Eleven regional champions competed for the honour of being able to call themselves the best excavator operator in the country.

The competition, held for the tenth time, required the national finalists to undertake a range of tasks demonstrating their skills behind the controls of 12-tonne CAT excavators. These included using their machines to paint the phrase CAT with a paint brush attached to the front of their digger, pouring a cup of tea, negotiating farm gates, driving fence posts and picking up a basketball and slam dunking it through a the top of a manhole riser 5.4 metres in the air.

Contestants were also required to load a logging truck with a 20-tonne machine – a task that was new to many of them. Other challenges included planning a one-day job to demonstrate their project management and planning skills. This challenge, for the Contractor Magazine One Day Job, was won by Kerry Barfoote.

Day two of the competition required two machines operating side by side to excavate a hole and create a mirror image of the material removed. Contestants also had to travel under a suspended pipe by excavating under the obstacle, negotiate a pipe with a hoop attached to a tilt bucket, popping a bottle of champagne and "CATapulting" lollies into the crowd.

Contestants were also judged on their safety knowledge and how they handled an emergency situation, where a fire was simulated in an excavator.

Malcolm Abernethy, NZ Contractors' Federation Executive Officer and National Excavator Competition Co-ordinator, described the competition as the best yet.

"It provided a real challenge to the operators and displayed the versatility of the machines," Mr Abernethy said. "Each year the competition provides new and novel ways to use an excavator, testing the contestants' hand, eye and foot co-ordination. It's a great way of showcasing the skills required in the civil construction industry - and it all makes great viewing for the public."

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