Porter Press Extra: Turfrey

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer

The compact Hyundai mini excavators working at Turfrey's job site may be small but offer big benefits


The 3.5-tonne Hyundai R35Z-9A

It might be a big company these days, but the Hawke’s Bay headquartered Turfrey team still appreciates the small things. Whether that be fostering a sense of pride in what their busy trade and retail staff achieve each day or the simple abilities a proven, reliable mini excavator can bring to the job site, it all counts as steps on the road to success.

Over the past four decades, Turfrey has become a trusted name in plumbing, gas fitting, roofing, heating, and drainage for all manner of residential and commercial clients.

Founded by Bruce Turfrey 44 years ago, the firm has expanded impressively in recent years under the leadership of Bruce’s sons Brad (managing director) and Thomas (group operations manager), and also general manager Rich Hutchinson.

Bruce remains active in the business, too, helping out where and when his expertise and wisdom is needed. Turfrey currently has branches in Wellington, the Waikato, and Manawatu and counts 240 full-time staff spread across the regions.

But it’s in Hawke’s Bay that this proud family-owned business was first established, initially in Waipukurau and then Hastings. And it’s in Hawke’s Bay where the company’s reputation for top-quality work in whatever discipline they engage with their clients on was first cemented.

Sam Brown (left) and excavator operator Sean Brew

For Hawke’s Bay regional manager, Sam Brown, the formula for success in their field is actually pretty simple. "It’s all about people," he says. "We’re very proud of the culture we have developed at Turfrey, and as a result, we have an amazing team working for us around the North Island.

Being able to offer a top-quality service from our trade qualified staff means that we stand behind our work. In turn, we’re fortunate to be able to partner with some excellent clients on an ongoing basis as well."

Turfrey counts the likes of Summerset, Villa Maria, Napier Port, and many other trusted corporates among its larger clientele, although, the multidisciplined company’s familiar livery is a familiar sight on many other job sites big and small.

We headed out to one such job site to check out a couple of Turfrey’s newer Hyundai excavators. The project is a high-end Ainsworth & Collinson Builders residential build along the banks of the Tukituki River, around 10 minutes’ drive outside of Havelock North.

To get there, we skirt around the base of the majestic Craggy Range and Te Mata Peak; as far as projects with a view go, this one rates pretty highly. But it’s bright yellow machinery, rather than lofty mountain views, that was the focus of the morning.

The Hyundai R35Z-9A is fitted with a tilt bucket—essential for any drainlaying activity

Sam says the mini excavator pair on-site at the Ainsworth & Collinson project are both relatively recent additions to the company’s machine fleet. While they differ in size, the 1.7-tonne Hyundai R17Z-9A and the 3.5-tonne Hyundai R35Z-9A both share enough compact machine DNA to fulfil a similar mandate for the Turfrey drainage team.

"Both machines are perfect for this sort of work because they give us a great mix of enough grunt in a small package," Sam explains. "A lot of our drainage work happens within these sorts of environments where there are structures to work around, and ease of access isn’t a given.

The 3.5-tonner is easy to manoeuvre around sites

The 3.5-tonner is grunty enough to use to place water tanks, but its compact enough to manoeuvre around sites. They’re both really good machines." The Turfrey machine fleet is made up of smaller gear; their current fleet of 16 excavators range from 1.7 to five tonnes, as the company doesn’t presently engage in larger-scale civil construction.

Porter Equipment services Turfrey’s Hyundai excavators wherever they’re based

With enough on the boil as it is, Sam says they look to Hyundai construction machinery distributor Porter Equipment to complete all scheduled servicing on the mini excavators too. Turfrey also owns and operates a large fleet of Elevated Work Platforms that mainly support its Roofing Division.

"Having Porters come in and look after the servicing takes away all the complexity for us. If you’ve got the right guy on the job who knows the machines inside-out, then why would you go anywhere else? Porters are a class act in this regard: they work with us to ensure the machine is available and they’ll come to wherever they are located as well."

The Hyundai R17Z-9A features an adjustable suspension seat for operator convenience

Sam likes to think of Turfrey’s attitude to business as "hungry but humble". The company has achieved a lot, but there’s always more to do. Beyond the boundary of premium housing projects such as this one, another big job on at present for the Hawke’s Bay team is completing the plumbing, drainage, roofing, and wall cladding at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Aquatic Centre, in partnership with and working for Apollo Projects.

A safety lever on the left-side console is designed to prevent exiting the cab while hydraulic controls are live

"We’d rather do what we do really well and manage our pipeline of work than try and take on too much and not deliver. This year has gone out the gate faster than any other year. We’re seeing great results from a heap of construction activity on at present, which is really rewarding," says Sam.

"To achieve these successes, we believe in surrounding ourselves with good, hard-working people. Naturally, we value and trust our staff and what they bring to the business in each of our locations.

"But we also value good relationships with our external suppliers and Porter Equipment definitely counts in this regard. They’re great to deal with and they stand behind their machinery. They make it easy for us to get on with the job, whatever that job might be."

Find new and used excavators for sale in NZ

Keep up to date in the industry by signing up to Deals on Wheels' free newsletter or liking us on Facebook