Cover story: Barry Heke Excavators

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer


It doesn’t matter what sort of earthmoving job is on the cards; with his Hyundai machinery, Barry Heke can handle it.

There’s nothing quite like general civil contracting to ensure a bit of variety in the working week. When it comes to shifting dirt, Barry Heke of Barry Heke Excavators has been there and done that. The Tauranga-based contractor has been in the game for 31 years and there probably isn’t a single facet of earthmoving that he hasn’t had some involvement with over that time.

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The company’s list of services runs into the double digits, encompassing general earthmoving, driveway and house site preparation work, swimming pool excavation, track building, landscaping, pile driving, retaining wall construction, and site clearing. The list goes on.

It’s also some of the more unusual jobs that stick out for Barry, like the time the owner of a horse that had died asked him to bury the expired mare standing up.

"I had to dig out quite a precise hole so the horse could be lowered into it standing up but supported by the earth once buried," says Barry. Barry says he has also been involved in burying whales that have stranded along the Bay of Plenty coastline, which—it probably doesn’t need to be said—are big tasks; one whale he buried once was 19 metres long. 

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Barry Heke

On other occasions, he has been contracted to assist on archaeological digs as well, which make for fascinating days at the ‘office’.

"The archaeologists just need you to skim a few millimetres of material off the surface. Then they get in there with their paintbrushes and carefully start brushing away the dirt. It’s very, very detailed work," he says.

"Most recently, I assisted on a dig near an old pa site, where five graves were discovered outside what would have been the walls of the pa. The archaeologists identified the remains as those of British soldiers; it was the brass buttons that would have been on their tunics that gave it away."

But for Barry, even the more run-of-the-mill work is enjoyable. While he has a couple of contracted guys he can call upon when things get busy—especially through the summer—Barry says he generally works solo. With his own low loader, he’s able to get himself and his machinery anywhere they’re required.

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The Hyundai R145CR-9 is a recent addition to the fleet

Two of those machines are trusty Hyundai tracked excavators; his latest Hyundai R145CR-9 having replaced an existing Hyundai a couple of months ago. Barry also runs a smaller Hyundai R60CR-9 mini excavator, which comes in handy when he’s working around house sites or areas with restricted access in the ever-expanding Tauranga region.

"I’m very happy with the Hyundai diggers, but it’s the service I get out of Porter Equipment that seals the deal for me," says Barry.

"The diggers do everything I need them to do, which is good. This new 14.5-tonner is a real step up in terms of power and the features it comes with. I like the fact that what you see is what you get with Hyundai machines because Porter Equipment gives you a completely spec’d machine. When it arrived, I didn’t have to wait around for other parts to be fabricated or added to it or anything."

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The new 14.5-tonner is a real step up in terms of power and the features it comes with

Barry also says the hands-on approach of Porter Equipment’s local Tauranga office is exemplary as well.

"Craig Wymer, the Porter Equipment mechanic here in town, is a top man; he’s fantastic at what he does and so knowledgeable too. That’s very important; if you have any issues with the machine, you want to know that the guy that’s going to come out and see what’s wrong isn’t going to stand there scratching his head.

"Craig is very thorough. If you call him and he doesn’t pick up immediately, he’ll always call back straightaway. He came and did a full machine check at hand-over when I took delivery of the new 14.5-tonner. Obviously, being an owner-operator, I use those guys for all my servicing, too."

Barry says that it’s Porter Equipment’s ability to be anywhere they’re needed that really sets them apart from the crowd.

"They’ve built up such a solid support network, so it’s easy to see why people trust the equipment they distribute; it’s actually that back-up that’s crucial, too."

As far as the machines themselves go though, Barry is happy, too. His new Hyundai R145CR-9 is his frontline machine, tasked with anything and everything from that extensive list of services he provides to clients around the Tauranga region.

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The new Hyundai is Barry’s frontline machine

Despite the amount of grunt that its air-cooled four-cylinder turbo-diesel generates, and the capacity its standard bucket offers, the Hyundai R145CR-9 still inhabits a relatively compact footprint.

That’s achieved by its short 1.48-metre tail swing radius, meaning that if Barry is working on a busy urban work site or alongside an access way where other vehicles are passing by, he’s still only manoeuvring within a limited space.

The day after our visit, Barry was off to complete some maintenance work for the Department of Conservation, tidying up tracks and access roads in the bush outside of Tauranga.

"I love the fact that one day I might be working on a subdivision somewhere, and the next I might be in the bush," he says.

"There’s always something different to get involved with; I reckon there’s more to earthmoving than a lot of people outside the industry would imagine."

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