Porter Press Extra: Wilson Sand

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer

This busy Waikato sand quarry has recently invested in a brand-new Hyundai HX350L excavator

You can tell the Wilson Sand quarry, two kilometres outside Matamata, is an operation with a difference before you even drive through the gate.

Rather than a yard framed by wire fencing and a scoured-out access road, you can’t actually see much of Murray Wilson’s business from the road because of tall, leafy trees.

The driveway is well maintained (and due to be tar sealed over summer) and the main carpark being bordered on one side by a cow shed reminds you that Wilson Sand is only but one part of this busy family operation, which also supports the local agriculture sector through cartage of sand, stock feed and fertiliser.

Wilson Sand has recently invested in a new 33-tonne Hyundai HX350L
Wilson Sand has recently invested in a new 33-tonne Hyundai HX350L

"We’re not a traditional quarrying company; we’re not like the big players," Murray tells me as we head down to the main sand pit, one of two on the 180-hectare property, which has been the family farm since 1908 and wintered as many as 700 head of cattle this past season.

"I like to think we’re farmers first, quarrymen second. We are always looking to the health of the land. The environment takes priority for us in everything we do here, whether it be on the farm or in the quarry. We look after the waterways; we plant plenty of trees and crops such as chicory, which is deep-rooted and good for soil conditioning. We rehabilitate the land wherever we can.

"We’re very self-sufficient and we like to be the guys interacting with our customers, rather than have a third party managing that aspect of it. That wouldn’t be our style."

Despite having a farm to run as well, Murray and his small team also have plenty of work on at the quarry. With pit sand needed for housing developments in the ever-busier Tauranga region, as well as throughout the Waikato, the lines of trucks in and out of the Hinuera Road West yard can often be long.

In order to keep up with demand, Murray has recently invested in a new 33-tonne Hyundai HX350L tracked excavator. The new machine – part of Hyundai’s all-new heavy-duty model line unveiled earlier in the year – replaces a Hyundai R320-7, a machine which Murray ran for 12 years and says barely missed a beat.

"You don’t invest in big equipment like a digger every day, so when you do, you need the assurance that it’s going to do what you need it to do consistently for the foreseeable future. We got around 12 years out of our last frontline digger and I would expect a solid 10 years’-plus performance out of this one too."

Murray runs another Hyundai excavator – an R210-9 – over at the other smaller quarry on the property. After initially looking to purchase another similarly sized machine from the same ‘dash 9’ series, he ultimately decided to go bigger, and go newer.

The Hyundai HL770-9 wheel loader feeds trucks all day
The Hyundai HL770-9 wheel loader feeds trucks all day

"You just can’t beat Porter Equipment on both price and warranty; the value proposition is very much front and centre with Hyundai equipment. Combine that with their reliability, and it’s a pretty compelling option for what we need."

Murray says that, while the Hyundai R210-9 works the secondary sand pit, it also doubles as the company’s go-to for reclamation work, meaning it is regularly tasked with handling smaller, harder material. In these instances, its nimbleness and compact frame are big bonuses.

"Working with pit sand isn’t too taxing on the machine, but with the volumes we are often shifting, bigger is definitely better," Murray continues.

"Our operator, David Blyde, starts every morning by prepping a 3000m sand pile which our Hyundai HL770-9 wheel loader then feeds out to trucks from all day. This system works well, as it essentially means David can work the pit solo, setting up first thing and then working the wheel loader for the remainder of the day.

"We could have a smaller machine down there, but that would necessitate the need for the digger to be continually adding to the stockpile while the loader fills the trucks, meaning we’d have two guys on the job and less efficient workflow.

"But with the bigger capacity bucket on the 33-tonner, we can prep for the day ahead much more efficiently. Over time, we will recoup the cost of the larger machine, so in our opinion it pays to go bigger."

The new HX series machine range from Hyundai brings with it plenty of innovation.
Available through Porter Equipment in six iterations – from 14.6-tonne to 51-tonne – the Hyundai HX range features improved reliability, comfort, safety, and efficiency while also offering a more modern, ergonomic operator environment.

Engineering updates for the Hyundai HX series include reinforced pins, bushes, and polymer shims, along with increased durability of the upper and lower structure and attachments. Higher-grade high-pressure hoses, and a brand-new cooling system offering increased airflow along with an enlarged air inlet are just some of the standard improvements.

Big advances have also been made inside the cab of HX series Hyundai tracked excavators.

A new air conditioning system, a larger information display unit and better audio system are all standard, with options like a quick coupler button and Hyundai’s impressive Advanced Around View Monitoring (AAVM) camera system increasing usability and safety for those inside and outside the machine.

Machinery operator David Blyde
Machinery operator David Blyde

Technological advances mean Murray’s Hyundai HX350 will remain the right tool for the job for the foreseeable future. And Murray believes that future will include residential development work moving inland away from Tauranga towards other accessible locations, such as Te Aroha, Morrinsville and especially his hometown of Matamata.

"If you look at what’s going on in Tauranga, you’ve seen steady and rapid growth there for the last few years which has been good for operations such as ours. But geographically, Tauranga only has so much space to give.

"I think we’ll see new developments moving further west in the next few years; places such as Matamata offer so much potential and so much energy. Couple that with just how easy it is to get to Tauranga or Hamilton or even Auckland from this area, and I believe we won’t be moving sand as far afield, but we’ll certainly be moving plenty of it. The next generation of the family will have plenty to do, that’s for sure."

So, with such predicted growth at a local level on the cards, Wilson Sand’s new Hyundai HX350L tracked excavator, as well as their wider Porter Equipment-supplied fleet, look sure to stand this family business in good stead for the years ahead.

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