Cover story: Central Machine Hire

By: Simon Johnston, Photography by: Simon Johnston

The Central Otago company combines a can-do spirit with leading technology to provide general contracting and quarrying services primarily in the Upper Clutha area

Central Machine Hire (CMH) is based in one of New Zealand’s most picturesque locations, the resort town of Wanaka. The town hums year-round, and there’s a lot going on beyond skiing, caravans, and, of course, the sweeping turquoise lakes and snow-capped Alps.
Like the alpine environment CMH calls home, the size of the business is easily misjudged and is much larger and varied than initial impressions.

CMH’s growth

The picturesque Wanaka forms a beautiful backdrop for the CMH team

Starting as a landscape business with just a single tractor, the CMH business has grown substantially over the years being part of a group of companies in Otago and Southland directed by Allan Dippie.

Forming a chain of vertically integrated businesses, CMH provides general contracting and quarrying services to the other group businesses such as Willowridge Developments Ltd, which takes care of residential and commercial development projects.

CMH’s growth has followed Willowridge, and things have never been busier in Wanaka. The business now boasts more than 55 staff, a late model fleet of earthmoving equipment, trucks, cranes, and HIABs, not to mention the 200 pieces of restored vintage equipment in their museum. Their passion for equipment, particularly Cat and Mack, is a big part of the culture at CMH. They run an extensive collection of classic Mack trucks along with an impressive array of vintage earthmoving machinery and farm tractors.

Currently, CMH is working on Three Parks—"the biggest development on the programme at the moment", according to Allan. It’s a long-term mixed-use development covering 100 hectares and creates a brand-new town centre. There are still thousands of cubic metres of earth and metal to shift before the project is complete. Work in the commercial and retail areas has progressed steadily with large franchise retailers already set up in the area with more construction work underway.

Although COVID-19 brought about some uncertainty for many developers and contractors, Three Parks has steamed ahead; even with a large tourism-dependent economy, things have never been busier for this group of businesses.

The aggregate supply problem

Operator Jarrod Lees

In 2014, the demand for aggregate resources for CMH’s projects reached a tipping point; local resources could just not keep up with the quantity and spec for the ongoing developments. The shortage was holding up jobs and extending completion dates.

CMH initially started crushing and screening using extracted river rock but quickly came across consent issues and needed to locate more material to keep up.

Additionally, the ambitious 100-hectare Three Parks mixed-use development was starting.

"No local quarry would have been able to supply the necessary aggregates for the project," says Allan.

Seeing an opportunity in nearby Luggate, Willowridge purchased a 250-acre block of prime quarriable land sitting above the valley and started extraction, crushing, and screening works after a successful resource consent process.

Starting a new quarry from scratch was a challenge; however, the new quarry turned out to be a real boon for CMH.

Buying crushing and screening equipment

The Keestrack B3 fills a valuable role crushing large feed for shaping

Allan and his CMH quarry and general manager Jason Winder started approaching and talking to various equipment distributors to supply the needed crushing and screening equipment for the growing quarry. A big part of that buying process involved suppliers understanding what they were trying to do and where the new quarry was sitting in terms of its capability and goals.

And for Jason, one of the primary reasons he selected Equip2 was "they came to visit us, saw what we were doing, what we were using, and they asked good questions; they cared. They put forward what we saw as a meaningful solution for the quarry."

Then after seeing the new Keestrack R3 Impact Crusher, they ordered one. The new R3 was a considerable step up for the quarry and for operator Jarrod Lees, a bit of a learning curve but a welcome challenge. CMH was so impressed with the performance of the R3 impactor that they also purchased a K4 scalping screen and S5 tracked stacker, enabling them to produce high-quality products such as NZTA40 and local roading spec products.

The value of quarrying

The CMH Quarry Fleet producing a 40mm spec ballast product for a local project

The Three Parks project and Willowridge Developments Ltd residential subdivision projects proved just how valuable the vertical integration of CMH’s contracting and quarrying arms are to the group. The quarry provides all the necessary aggregates to construct everything from roads and footpaths to car parks and services.

Eventually, it was decided to trade the R3 for the new R3h impactor and purchase an additional crusher, a Keestrack B3 jaw crusher, further adding capability and throughput to the quarry.

Allan says it worked out well.

"The R3 had around 5000 hours on it when we traded it, but we got an excellent trade-in price for it from Equip2 and, it shows how well Jarrod has looked after the equipment."

Jason is at the forefront of CMH’s activities. His favourite is still the quarry.

"It’s new and exciting for us, it’s got so much opportunity, and there’s a lot to learn about everything, such as layouts, configurations, and you’re going to achieve something."

Scaling up results

The high throughput of the equipment has enabled CMH to produce all the needed aggregates for their projects

The latest Keestrack R3h, B3, along with the K4 and S5, were all showcased at the 2021 Wheels at Wanaka, which was held last Easter, with Equip2 becoming a sponsor of the event.

After Wheels at Wanaka, the new equipment was delivered to the quarry, received by Jason and Jarrod.

"I noticed an improvement in the R3h over the R3: more throughput of the conveyors, thanks to the bigger screen and better wear on the new chamber plate design," says Jarrod, who was running the equipment in daisy-chain configuration of the B3, R3h, and K4 to produce a variety of products including a 40–20mm ballast.

"The R3h stays here at the quarry, as it makes all our different specs," says Jason, "The B3 is a new addition, allowing us to take the bigger quarry rock and resize it for the impactor to shape, giving us more throughput with the larger stuff and better wear. We also use it for contract crushing, as we have more machine resources; one of its recent jobs was crushing way up in the Hunter Valley."

The key part of CMH’s quarry success really comes down as Allan says "we quickly got very good at it, and we have access to a very high-quality supply of material to use. The support from Equip2 has been very good. Jason has said the same to me and he can be hard to please."

The partnership between CMH and Equip2 has been extremely successful because of CMH’s passion for their equipment and preventative maintenance planning and Equip2’s rapid parts, service, and technical support, proving that it’s more than good equipment that gets results.

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