Contractor profile: RE Walters

By: Lyndsay Whittle, Photography by: Lyndsay Whittle

The RE Walters Farms’ yard is a machinery lover’s treasure trove. Deals on Wheels takes a quick tour.

During a recent trip to the north King Country, Deals on Wheels had hoped to catch up with Robert Walters to take a look at some of his tractors, diggers, and other equipment and to have a chat about how he manages to align the work required on his own properties with a huge demand for his staff and machines by an ever-increasing external client base.

However, on the day we were in town, Robert had been unexpectedly called away, leaving the job of showing us around to his trusted operator Bryan Southall and his business associate Neville (Nev) Disher.

Nev explains that his association with Robert dates back to 2003. RE Walters Farms supplies the tractors and other associated equipment, while Nev provides his labour, along with a variety of his own ground-prep and maintenance gear.

RE Walters
The tractor-scoop combinations are a viable alternative to motor scrapers

On the day of our visit, Nev took some time out from driving one of the RE Walters’ Mitsubishi Shoguns to give us a guided tour of their Maihiihi headquarters.
Both Robert and Nev say that they prefer to stick to all aspects of ground preparation and are happy to leave maize harvesting to other firms in the area.

Tools in the shed

Aside from a seed drill, sprayers, and a set of discs in Nev’s arsenal, one item in particular stands out in the eyes of vintage machinery admirers—his pride and joy, a 1950s Galion grader.

Nev reckons that the old grader is still capable of putting in a good day’s work, although, he does admit that it could be likened to grandad’s old axe with two new heads and three new handles.

Originally, it was powered by an International engine (it still sports its original International Harvester grille), however, recently, Nev fitted it with a four-cylinder Leyland tractor engine, which he says performs well.

The old grader is regularly used to form and maintain races, farm roading, dressage arenas and the like; it’s even been used over the years to smooth-out the well-trodden roads at the Mystery Creek venue south of Hamilton.

Nev Disher and his vintage Galion grader
Nev Disher and his vintage Galion grader

Finishing touches to the grading are completed with Robert’s 12-tonne Ammann vibrating roller, which was purchased because of the requirement to get jobs completed more quickly as a result of increased demand for roading and races.

The RE Walters Farms’ yard is a machinery lover’s treasure trove and included a 1985 eight-wheeler ERF, which Robert said during a later tongue-in-cheek phone interview, was "kind of forced upon" him by an old friend, Leveson Gower who wanted to keep it in the family so to speak after he’d finished using it to cartloads of his own logs.

It’s fantastic to see that there are still people around who are prepared to provide a safe haven for old vehicles and machinery that will surely be saved for posterity. Well done Robert, Nev, and the rest of the team.

Robert did say, however, that the old ERF, although still a valuable workhorse is only used on odd occasions these days, and that for everyday work, his team uses a fleet of three six-wheeler Mitsubishi Shoguns.

Effluent treatment system

I could have stayed on for hours talking about the different jobs the guys had carried out in the time they’d worked together, but it was getting late in the day and our tour guide, Bryan Southall was keen to show us an effluent treatment system he’d been working on in conjunction with his boss Robert on one of his farms, about a 15-minute drive away.

Bryan explains that although the effluent pond on this particular job, measuring in at 30m x 30m x 4m deep, is relatively small when compared to some of the larger 70m x 70m x 4m ponds the company has constructed, the principal of construction is the same.

The initial groundwork is carried out with the company’s tractor-scoop combinations, which cut a trench, with the spoil being used to build up the sides of the ponds, minimising the depth of the dig in order to create a pond between 3.5 and four metres in depth. An approximate ratio of excavating a metre, then building a metre is usually employed.

Once this initial work is completed, a pair of the company’s 15-tonne Kobelco diggers are brought in to complete the pond with a 1:1 batter on all four sides. The finishing touch is a trench, which is placed around the perimeter of the pond, with the trenching typically being performed with the use of a V bucket. The entire process normally takes between three days to a week, depending of course on the size of the pond, weather, and other existing conditions.

One of the Kobelco SK 135SR excavators waiting to do the business
One of the Kobelco SK 135SR excavators waiting to do the business

Once the groundwork is completed, a plastic liner is fitted to the pond and secured in place by being stretched into the trench, which is then back-filled.

In the case of the Maihiihi farm site, the effluent treatment and pumping system, which includes a weeping wall, is situated approximately 100 metres away on the south-western side of the property.

Robert says he’s fortunate to have a lot of technical support almost on his doorstep living in Maihiihi, with all his requirement being furnished by local businesses in what would normally be regarded as a relatively small rural community.

As an instance, the entire effluent treatment system was designed by Shane Phillips whose company Pumpn is based in Otorohanga. They also carried out most of the installation.
The weeping wall sump was being worked on by Peter Gray and his team from Dairy Tech Waikato on the day of the visit.

Dairy Tech Waikato is situated in Maihiihi, Otorohanga and specialises in the design and construction of dairy farm sheds, milking systems, and general farm structures.

Bryan explains the 150mm pipework required to carry the effluent between the two segments of the operation will need to be thrusted in this instance due to the contours of this particular farm.

The expansive fleet

Robert says that although much of the machinery he initially purchased was for use on his own farms, his growing client-based demand has increased over the years to a point where outside work now constitutes approximately 80% of the workload.

He says that the company’s fleet of Schuitemaker loader wagons, with carrying capacities of up to 17 tonnes bring in a fair amount of work, as he can be competitive against conventional trucking methods when it comes to pricing on trips of up to 15km.
Some of the IH Case tractors in the fleet are powered by engines of up to 300hp, which make light work of loads of that size.

The fleet of Schuitemaker loader wagons have a carrying capacity of 17 tonnes and are economical for road trips of up to 15km
The fleet of Schuitemaker loader wagons have a carrying capacity of 17 tonnes and are economical for road trips of up to 15km

Lely wrapper/balers also feature in the RE Walters Farms fleet list, as the company has a longstanding association with the well-known brand, having been involved R&D for the Dutch manufacturing company by carrying out field tests, using their machines in New Zealand conditions.

When asked to list the machinery he had in his fleet, Robert says we’d be there until Christmas going through the entire manifest, especially if we added Nev Disher’s gear into the mix, however, the following list will give a ballpark indication of what the combination has to offer:

  • Three Mitsi Shogun six-wheeler tippers
  • Three 15-tonne Kobelco hydraulic excavators
  • (Let’s not forget) Eight-wheeler ERF tipper
  • 15 (mostly Case IH) tractors ranging from 125 to 300hp
  • One eight cubic metre Hautapu Welders-built scoop
  • One 10 cubic metre Hautapu Welders-built scoop
  • Two Schuitemaker Rapide 580 loader wagons
  • One AMMANN 12-tonne vibrating roller
  • One Lely Welger RPC 245 Tornado baler
  • Nev’s Galion grader, six-metre seed drill, Lely Hibiscus rotor rake, along with various sprayers. The list goes on.

Suffice to say that Otorohanga and its surrounding farms and developments are well catered for when it comes to having all their contracting requirements attended to by the one company.

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