Business profile: South East Earthworks

By: Randolph Covich, Photography by: Justin Bennett


The last seven or eight years have seen a lot of new names enter the contracting industry. South East Earthworks in one such company.

Locky Flintoft, the owner of Christchurch-based South East Earthworks or SEE as it’s visually known, says he made the decision to return home after realising there would be an opportunity to put his machine operating skills to use during the post-earthquakes reconstruction period.

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Most of South East Earthworks crew gathered for a team photo

Locky spent a number of years in Australia, primarily on the mining circuit, and was nearing the end of his time in the dry Outback when he decided to return to New Zealand in May 2012.

He was one of a number of ex-locals who returned home and his resulting hard work has seen an enviable-sized business develop during the intervening years.

"Before the quakes, I had pretty much made up my mind that my time there was coming to an end, but the quakes were the catalyst to come home and see what opportunities were available," says Locky.

Truck and machine

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A variety of equipment enables the company to undertake a wide selection of jobs

Quake reconstruction work for the fledgling company started in a straightforward manner as the budding businessman purchased a small excavator and truck and took on whatever came his way.

"I sort of lost count of the number of driveways I excavated and replaced," he says, but his efficiency on those small jobs paved the way, as they say, to more work and the requirement for additional staff to keep customers satisfied.

Just seven years on and as Locky stands in the middle of a paddock adjacent to his yard on the outer rim of Christchurch, it’s a little hard to comprehend how the softly spoken contractor has built up such a large collection of machinery on the back of some sound business decisions since his days as an owner-operator.

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South East Earthworks on a job in Kaikoura

In typical contractor fashion where no effort is too much of a hassle, Locky and his team of 25 staff have gathered a large selection of the SEE machinery together for us to photograph.

Fortunately, our Friday afternoon visit coincided with the arrival of a number of machines from Kaikoura where a crew had just completed a few months of work.

"We still have more to do up there, but it’ll be a little while before all the consents are issued, so we thought it best to bring the gear back and use it on our jobs here," Locky says.

No job is too small

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Locky Flintoft with his John Deere RT3510 at the South Island Agricultural Field Days tractor pull

To help futureproof his business Locky has successfully transitioned into commercial work such as car parks, building foundations, bulk excavations, and farm and forestry tracks. Another focus for the company is subdivision work and it’s here that SEE has found something of a niche by taking such developments from paddock to the final product.

"You do need the right people when working on subdivisions and they suck up a lot of equipment," he says. "We do from small jobs to large commercial; no job is too small."

Locky is probably stating the obvious at this point as we stand amid a varying selection of excavators and trucks, as well as roading and drainage machinery.

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Not all of Locky’s nine excavators were available for the photo shoot

"I’m a bit bummed we couldn’t get our largest excavator or some of the other gear across here for the photos today, but you get a fairly good indication of our capabilities," Locky says as he sweeps his arm in a wide arc.

He adds that he has no brand preference and chooses equipment based on job requirements and product availability. "I recently purchased a new Sany single drum compactor from Global Tractors here in Christchurch, as it represented good value and suited our purposes," says Locky.

"Truck-wise, our fleet is a mixture of brands, but I’m gradually moving towards more Kenworths as these suit the work we do and our drivers like them," he says.

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Not usually used to tractor pull contests, Locky was asked to bring the big machine in as a crowd-pleaser

One machine that the Deals on Wheels team did see in action earlier in the day at the South Island Agricultural Field Days tractor pull competition was Locky’s John Deere 9510R super-tractor.

A quick search on the Farm Trader website (farmtrader.co.nz) gives some quick specs, such as a 510hp engine and serious tyre sizing of 800/70R38Ds, which carry the BKT brand and were fitted recently.

On days when it’s not showing off its pulling power at agricultural shows, it’s coupled to a 18-cubic-metre Ashland scoop and working on bulk earthwork sites around the Canterbury region.

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The John Deere 9510R usually tows an 18 cubic metre Ashland scoop

"This unit is ideal for our work, particularly its versatility," Locky says. "It can be used in a lot of different configurations."

For a person in his early ’30s and with a crew demographic of a similar age and disposition, it’s apparent that positive energy is being channelled in the right places by the owner and his staff, with a close bond clearly obvious.

Locky is a good example of how newcomers establish themselves and gain a foothold in what is a competitive environment. Their biggest destabilising effect on the establishment is often their youthful vigour, can-do attitudes, and happy disposition. It’s still not a job for the faint-hearted though.

For more information, visit southeastearthworks.co.nz.

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