Business profile: Robotech Contractors Ltd

By: The ED, Photography by: Supplied

After watching a news article online about flooding in Northland, the Ed tracked down a contractor who put his services at the disposal of the community

Andy Murdoch

I first stumbled across contractor Andy Murdoch a few weeks ago while watching a news video on Stuff. If I recall correctly, it was a couple of days after heavy flooding hit Northland and the areas around Whangarei and Moerewa had been pretty badly bashed in what meteorologists said was a one-in-500-year weather event.

Robotech Contractors service the top of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Warkworth

In the news article, Andy, through his business Robotech Contractors Ltd, had offered machinery free of charge to help locals clear debris and this enabled many families to retrieve vehicles and possessions. No doubt, it was a huge help in getting lives back in order.

After significant weather events, we don’t usually see contractors reaching into their back pockets and offering free services, though, some can be pretty quick to advertise machine hire at discounted rates. I was impressed that Andy had taken things a step further by donating a significant amount of time and subsequently money to help those in need.

So, who was this guy? I decided to find out.

The backstory

A box blade has recently been added for ground preparation work

Originally from the South Island and now based at the other end of the country in Waipapa just outside Kerikeri, Andy and his wife Louise originally settled in Auckland, where he spent some 20 years working for the NZ Police.

Hitting that mid-life marker around three years ago and with no family connections to New Zealand’s largest city, Andy tells me they decided to move north and looked for a business to purchase.

"Not being from an agriculture or construction background, I was looking at all different types of businesses but kept coming back to the gorse I saw around the place and it was especially noticeable on the sides of steep hills," Andy says.

After doing the research, a decision was made to purchase a remote-controlled mulcher, which Andy cites as fitting his criteria for making work as safe as possible where possible.
"With a bit of forward work ahead of me, I took the plunge and purchased a Energreen Robocut through Agriquip who are located in New Plymouth," says Andy.

There are three mulching heads available suited to varying vegetation

"It was a break into something of an unknown market, as everyone was used to tractors, excavators, and tracked loaders fitted with mulching heads to do their gorse removal. Our machine does not have the additional weight and safety features required for an operator of those other machines, so all the engine power is going towards the mulching head and tracks, making it capable of handling grandaddy gorse," he says.

Along with the heavy-duty tungsten-toothed forestry head, Andy purchased a two-directional hammer flail, which he uses for medium brush, such as blackberry and deep kikuyu. Additionally, a ‘Y’ flail head is on hand for grass and lighter scrub.

Spiked tracks enable work to be carried out in most weather conditions and up to 65-degree slopes

"We have a set of spiked tracks that are mainly used during winter. They’re great, so it doesn’t slow us down and keeps things safe; after all, it all comes down to safety," Andy says.

The Kubota 5740 earned its keep during the storm clean-up process

Some recent additions to the Robotech fleet was a Kubota 5740, which came fitted with a front-end loader; it became the prime piece of equipment for assisting with the flood work.

A Trimax Warlord S3 flail mower adds to the versatility of the business

"It is a great piece of kit and Norwoods of Whangarei who supplied it are fantastic to deal with," says Andy. "We fitted it with a Trimax Warlord S3 flail mower and between this and the Robocut, we have some good options at our disposal."

Team of two

Fraser Murdoch prepares to put the Energreen Robout to work

Andy tells me that along with his son Fraser who works alongside him in the business, they spent over a week helping flood-affected residents in Northland for no monetary reward.
"A lot of these people are so crushed by society that when something like this happens, they don’t complain and instead just suck it up.

Seeing us turn up to fix their driveway up so they can go and get the groceries is not what they expect," he says. Hard-hit Moerewa was one such community that benefitted from Andy’s generosity, with work being carried out at the rugby club, local marae, and numerous other locations.

A bit further afield, Andy and Fraser took their equipment to a small rural community and spent a number of days removing debris from under houses and moving hundreds of cubic metres of spoil, which had built up from a flooded river.

"As it was private land, authorities weren’t in the position to help out, so we went in and helped out," says Andy. "I just thought it was the right thing to do, especially in those communities that are obviously financially disadvantaged."

"We’re only a two-man crew, so what’s a bit of gas and time," Andy says. From my perspective, it’s a lot, and it’s encouraging to see there are still people out there who have the heart to put other people before themselves. Robotech certainly has my stamp of approval.

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