Business profile: Lone Kauri Construction

By: Lyndsay Whittle, Photography by: Lyndsay Whittle

Business profile: Lone Kauri Construction Brothers Sam (left) and Ezra Clark of Lone Kauri Construction. Business profile: Lone Kauri Construction
Business profile: Lone Kauri Construction Business profile: Lone Kauri Construction
Business profile: Lone Kauri Construction Business profile: Lone Kauri Construction

Ezra Clark is a self-confessed perfectionist who prefers to prepare his own site cuts and digging his own foundations for the construction tenders his company wins. So when he made the decision to buy his own earthmoving equipment, he received assistance from an unexpected ally.

Clark, who has been in the building game since the age of 16, has now been in business for himself since 2007 and has previously used outside contractors to carry out the earthworks side of his builds. The relationship he had with his contractor, Graham Geddis Delaney Contracting, was a particularly good one.

In fact, it was Geddis who encouraged Clark to go forth and purchase his own equipment, even to the point of actively supporting him with advice on the intricacies of operating hydraulic diggers and other machinery.

Deals on Wheels caught up with Clark and his brother Sam on a job at Bethells Beach, west of Auckland, The brothers had both of Clark's excavators on site, along with a trusty 1996 Hino Ranger, which had been backed up the driveway to be loaded with black iron sand to make way for a garage platform.

Taking pride of place in his tools inventory are a Bobcat E35 excavator and a Kubota U17-3 excavator, which Clark says complement each other, especially on some of the more difficult Waitakere Ranges sites the company often works on.

Lone Kauri Construction currently has five employees on its books, including Clark, who prefers to stay on the tools, although the tools no longer form the shape of a hammer or a nail gun.

When asked how he can constantly keep four or five jobs on the go at any given time, while being on site for eight hours every day, Clark said that the administration side of the business was taken care of by office manager partner, Trish Rua.

After a short chat to the DOW team while eating his lunch – a healthy salad sandwich, which Clark was quick to point out was the reason he was able to keep up with such a hectic schedule, it was back to one of his favourite building tools, the Bobcat E35 excavator.

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The entrepreneurial Clark reckons that his decision to purchase his own excavation equipment was one of the wisest moves he's made and uses the current Bethells job and another that he's recently started at Piha as "perfect examples".

He describes the job at Piha as being "quite challenging" from an access point of view and promptly invites us to pay a visit "when the weather comes right".

When first hearing the story of how a builder had turned his hand to the excavation side of house-building we were keen to see first-hand how it was actually put into practice, as having the ability to read a set of plans and transfer them into erecting a building requires a different set of motor skills to operating hydraulic excavators.

However, watching Clark benching out the garage platform and loading the contents into the truck into quite a confined space allayed any concerns we may have previously had. This operator performed the task as if he'd being doing it all his life.

When asked what features of the Bobcat excavator clinched the deal when making his purchase, Clark said it was a combination of the smooth operation of the hydraulics; the good visibility from the cab; and the zero tail swing (ZTS) which gives him unrestricted rotation when working in tight spots – a situation he encounters almost on a daily basis.

He also says that the floating blade system is fantastic at the levelling-off stage, making it really easy to get a level finish, and the hydraulic thumb he had added to the package is great for removing stumps and placing rocks in landscaping jobs.

While Clark was busy at the back of the property, younger brother Sam was working at the front of the site with the smaller machine, a nifty little Kubota U17-3.

As is the case with the Bobcat E35 he spends most of his time on, Clark says the Kubota is packed with features that make the machine a dream to operate, an example is the short-pitched pattern of the rubber tracks that make for smoother travel when moving from place to place on the worksite, along with an extendable dozer blade.

Overall, he reckons he's got a winning combination with his newest tools of trade, right down to the vehicles he uses to transport the two machines to his building sites.

The larger Bobcat excavator travels on the back of the Hino Ranger, while the smaller Kubota gets to ride on a trailer, towed behind a Toyota Hilux.

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Oh and about that offer to the DOW team to take a look at the Piha job "when the weather came right" – by the time the weather did actually come right, the Lone Kauri Construction team had removed the Kubota from the basement it had been digging, so we never got to see it working together with the Bobcat.

However, we are assured that both machines worked well together with the smaller digger 'feeding' the larger Bobcat, which in turn was used to load the truck. We've added a couple of photos of the building site to give an idea of the difficult site the guys had to work in.

Kubota U17-3 features

  • The control system LCD panel accurately displays diagnostic readings and routine maintenance alerts, keeping the operator informed of current working conditions, engine RPM, temperature and oil levels – it even emits an alert when the tank is nearly full during refuelling.
  • The engine has been upgraded from 13HP to 17HP and offers low noise and vibration levels and complies with the EPA's 2008 Tier IV emissions regulations.
  • Incorporating an extended dozer arm optimising the clearance between the dozer and the bucket. This makes collecting soil and rocks close to the machine, more efficient. The extended length of the dozer arm also helps prevent soil or rocks from getting caught between the dozer and the track.
  • Double-flanged track rollers and short-pitched rubber crawlers for improved undercarriage durability. The double-flanged track rollers help improve travel stability and performance, and the short-pitched rubber crawlers help minimize vibration during travel for improved operator comfort.
  • A hydraulic track gauge that can be adjusted between 990mm and 1240mm with the touch of a single lever, reducing the track gauge to navigate narrow spaces or increase it to improve stability.

Bobcat E35 features

  • Zero tail swing (ZTS) providing greater manoeuvrability.
  • Auto Idle idles the engine when machine functions are not used for four seconds or more; throttle returns to previous position when the joystick is moved or the travel function is engaged.
  • Auto Shift Travel transitions the drive-motors to and from high range during travel; provides on-demand travel performance with no manual shifting;
  • Fingertip Swing Control: Rocker-style thumb switch improves metering of the swing function.
  • Selectable auxiliary hydraulic flow allows the operator to select one of three flow rates to optimise the response of particular hydraulic attachments such as maximum flow for attachments like the auger, medium flow for slower clamp movements and lowest flow for precise movements of a Power Tilt accessory.
  • Blade Float simplifies grading, leveling and backfilling.

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