Porter Press Extra: Topline Contracting

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer

Deals on Wheels takes a closer look at the Hyundai machinery deployed in the Hawke’s Bay region to help with the recovery efforts

As Hawke’s Bay recovers from the devastating Cyclone Gabrielle storm event earlier this year, a common feature of the landscape is the silt left behind as the floodwaters receded. Equally common for contractors in the region is the need for reliable machinery to help shift the silt to start rehabilitating both land and livelihoods.

The HX145CR is Topline Contracting’s seventh Hyundai crawler excavator purchased in recent years

The tagline Topline Contracting uses on its website is ‘You Name It, We Do It’. That’s generally the case, too, with the company undertaking all manner of civil work, including concreting, highway stabilisation and repairs, asphalting, and general earthmoving. But right now, one task appears to dominate a fair portion of the Hawke’s Bay company’s working week: silt removal.

As is often the way, news footage doesn’t do justice to the scale of an event. It’s not until you get out on the roads of the Hawke’s Bay hinterland, inland from Napier along the banks of the Tutaekuri River, that you get a sense of just how devastating Cyclone Gabrielle’s impact was on this region.

The 14.6T HX145CR has been good to use for the silt removal work

In small settlements, such as Moteo, Puketapu, and Pukehāmoamoa, the roads are bordered by silt, fallen trees, and farm rubbish. Acre after acre of battered orchard blocks full of fruiting trees that will never be harvested. Houses that look normal from a distance reveal themselves to be damaged, chaotic, unoccupied husks as you drive closer. And every now and then, you’ll spot a dusty, bedraggled family hatchback or SUV, skewwhiff on the side of the road where either the floodwater dumped it, or where it’s been brusquely pushed out of the way by recovery teams. With so much to do to try and get the region functioning again, waterlogged wrecks of vehicles just have to wait their turn for removal.

But it’s the silt that’s the biggest headache. It’s everywhere. Veritable hills of silt. When it’s dry, dust chokes the air and covers roads and houses. When it’s wet, you can’t do much with it. But it all has to go somewhere.

With so much recovery work to complete, vehicular casualties of the flooding event must wait their turn for removal

"The local councils quickly opened up a series of silt disposal sites, which was the only response possible. But as you can imagine, there’s just so much silt to dispose of," says Topline Contracting contracts manager, Brett Way.

"There are approximately six sites throughout the region, but often the queues of trucks waiting to get in and unload are a mile long. And then, of course, when it rains, the silt becomes unworkable. It’s a much slower process than everyone would like, but it is what it is."

I meet Brett and Topline Contracting machine operator Andy Mullins at a largescale kiwifruit orchard on the banks of the Tutaekuri River — ground zero for one of the many massive flooding events that wiped out homes and livelihoods here as Gabrielle, one of the most destructive storms to ever hit New Zealand, steamrolled its way down the east coast of the North Island in early February.

The new HX series excavator arrived on-site with plenty of upgrades suited to the tasks required of it

Despite the work at hand, the Hyundai HX145CR Andy’s using on this orchard remediation project is the shiniest thing here among the dust and debris of a thoroughly wrecked operation. Mind you, the machine — the seventh Hyundai crawler excavator the company has purchased in recent years — only has 230 hours on it.

"The smaller machines get knocked around a bit — it’s just the nature of the work," says Andy. "But they’re solid and reliable. They’re still going strong with more than 2000 hours on them, and the beauty of using one brand is that we have multiple diggers, one set of spares."

The company fleet also includes a Hyundai R80CR-9, a Hyundai R17Z-9 mini excavator, and four Hyundai R35Z-9 mini excavators.

"They represent good value for money and they’re reliable. They’re perfect for what we do," says Brett.

Andy says the 14.6-tonne Hyundai HX145CR has been good to use for the silt removal work, citing its stability even with a heavy load in the bucket as a stand-out feature.

The access road into this kiwi orchard reveals flood devastation at every turn

"For a zero-swing machine, I’ve found it to be very stable. When you’re slewing around to load a truck with silt, it doesn’t pitch; it’s rock solid. It’s a very comfortable machine to use."

In addition to a robust frame structure and dozer blade, the new HX series excavator arrived on-site boasting plenty of upgrades suited to the tasks required of it. These include an uprated Intelligent Power Control system, which also optimises pump flow rate and power through an individual pump control.

Hyundai’s engineering and design team was able to improve pump flow rates in the HX series excavator range via the independent control of two pumps. This means the flow rate is optimised regardless of what attachment is being used or what the site environment is like. The Topline Contracting team can shift silt today, roading aggregate tomorrow, and the excavator will work as efficiently as possible in either scenario.

While Andy hasn’t had much cause to use it yet on this particular site with its broad perimeters and one-truck-at-a-time workflow, the Hyundai HX145CR has been specified with Hyundai’s multi-camera Advanced Around View Monitoring (AAVM) system. This means that when he and his machine head to their next busier job site or Network Outcomes Contract task along a main highway, Andy will have eyes on every corner of his working environment.

Andy says technicians from Porter Equipment’s Hawke’s Bay operation in Napier completed the first 100-hour scheduled service on-site on a Saturday when the machine wasn’t being used, and that the back-up support from the distributor has been great.

"We’ve been dealing with Porters for some time now and they’ve always been good to work with," adds Brett.

With still so much to do to get this section of Hawke’s Bay back to some sense of normality, there’s plenty of work on in the company’s backyard.

"We’ve completed contract works up through the Taupo region and into the Wairarapa in the past. But honestly, you can see the scale of the remediation work required here. We have enough on here to keep us busy for the foreseeable future. The recovery will cost billions and take years, but we’ll keep working at it; it’s all you can do."

In situations like this, with a hard road and long hours ahead, machine comfort and reliability, backed up by comprehensive technical support, certainly come to the fore. Topline Contracting’s Hyundai excavator fleet helps provide that.

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