Cover story: Russell Roads

By: Alex Wall, Photography by: Daisy Thor-Poet

The move to electric-powered machines is part of Russell Roads’ drive to be more sustainable and reflects its ambition of becoming greener

The roar of the Ngaruroro River hits you as you descend off State Highway 50, about 10km east of Hastings. It’s here on this flat alluvial river plain that I’ve come to visit Russell Roads at their aggregate production site known as Monument.

It’s roughly two kilometres before the small settlement of Maraekakaho and is one of four consented quarries across the Hawke’s Bay region that Gavin O’Connor, the Russell Roads CEO, is proud to have on his books.

His company is heavily invested in building New Zealand’s future, employing around 90 staff across three divisions. Their quarry operation — Russell Aggregates — produces high-quality roading products direct from river run, which, together with the company’s purpose-built asphalt manufacturing facility — Russell Asphalt — supplies products suited to construction and large-scale infrastructure projects.

Around 15 to 20% of the supply is used by Russell Roads, the construction arm of the business, with the rest being sold to small- and large-scale operators in the construction and infrastructure industries.


Keestrack H4e producing aggregate from river stone

As one would expect, the synergy from producing raw materials for use by another area of the business has considerable savings.

Robbie Gale has owned the business with his wife since 2017. A self-made man, he has a steely edge and a knack for envisioning opportunities and actioning ideas to great success.
I expect him to be future-focused and he doesn’t disappoint.

In 2015, Russell Aggregates processed 10,000 tonnes from the site. Today, it’s 400,000 tonnes. By 2027, Robbie wants to hit one million tonnes — all to meet market demand. I whistle through my teeth. It’s a big number, but when I see the seriousness on his face, I don’t doubt he’ll achieve it for a second.  

Monument site

Gavin O’Connor, CEO, Russell RoadsE

The Monument site is busy and runs like a well-oiled machine. Large trucks come and go, dropping off river stones for processing or collecting finished aggregate products and transporting them straight off the site to local marketplaces. Loaders are everywhere, pushing and pulling stones from different stacks.

It’s an impressive operation with every operator seeming to know their exact role and where to be.

Organising operations on the ground is Klayten Betts, the site foreman. He appreciates the finer details of river run aggregate production and is keen to explain how it all works.
In a raised voice to cancel the thrum of the machinery, he relays his thoughts: "We extract direct from the river on the boundary of our site here," he says, pointing in the direction of Ngaruroro River about 100 metres away. "We wash that material through our wash plant, which is made up of a K4 scalping screen, an S130 wash plant, and a cyclone, which classifies the scree.

"From there, that makes our two concrete products 22/65 and 65+, which go into stockpiles. We use an R5 impact crusher and our H4e cone crusher to break them down into 20mm, 40mm, and 65mm base coarse products, which we mix (based on our mix designs) to create our final products — AP20, AP40, AP65, and M4 products, which all get used in roading."

The move to electric

Keestrack H4e cone chamber

The electric-powered Keestrack H4e is a fairly new addition, acquired with the future of the business in mind. Klayten explains, "We use it to make 20mm or we can change it over and make crusher dust. Before we had the H4e, we weren’t able to make crusher dust and that product is now an integral part of our business. We’re putting it into our M4 product to give it a better compaction rate and our customers are really liking it."

The move to electric-powered machines is part of Russell Aggregate’s drive to be more sustainable and reflects its ambition of becoming greener. They recognise that universally, customers want products produced in more sustainable ways, so the company is gearing itself to transition more of its business into that space. 

"It’s quite tough for a construction company to do that, but we’re dedicated to doing things better for our business and for the communities in which we live and work," says Gavin.

"We don’t just want to make money from our products; we want to do that in the most sustainable way possible. Hence, we’re looking to move a lot of our plant to electric over the long term. It’s not an overnight switch, but we’ve started with our aggregates division and the H4e."

Gavin has further ambitions to power the H4e by installing solar power on the open pastureland between the Monument site and the main highway — enough panels to eventually service the quarry and power their entire plant if possible.

"We think that’s a really good sell to our clients. We can tell them that we’re not just trying to make profit from product; we’re trying to do it in the most sustainable way practicable," he says.

That includes potential benefits for Russell Aggregates too. "There’s an operational saving, and if we can get that right, we’ll save some money in how we go about producing our aggregate," says Gavin.

Winning for the community

Final product coming off the end of Keestrack H4e Cone Crusher

The entire team is enthusiastic about the approach because it’s a win-win for everyone, including their community. Russell Roads donates 10% of profits into local initiatives allocated through their privately run company trust, so the more money they can make, the more they can support local causes. The community is important to them, but in their humble manner, they help because they genuinely care, not because they’re looking for anything in return.

It’s that honesty that sees them step up and help when required. When the main roads to Maraekakaho and Kereru washed away in the recent floods, cutting access

to both small settlements, Russell Aggregates took action. They filled dump truck after dump truck with aggregate and packed the roads back in. Restoring access to Maraekakaho took some 300 tonnes.

A week later, Russell Roads put basecourse down and re-chipped the road surfaces, restoring both to pre-flood condition — proof that it’s handy having a quarry just down the road.

The sentiment extended to their team, too, with Russell Roads providing equipment and staff their time to volunteer for property clean-ups and community working bees. Gavin beams with pride: "If you can’t do good work in your own communities, where can you do it?" 

Supplying equipment

Main control panel of Keestrack H4e. Can you spot the earth cable?

Supplying Russell Aggregates with their processing machines — both in the past and present — has been the role of Equip2. Every machine on-site has been procured via Bert and his team and it’s a relationship that’s greatly valued by both companies.  

"All the machines we have, all of our mobile crushing and screening plants, are all supplied by Equip2," says Gavin. "All the parts and service are supplied through them, too."

"It’s nice to go to one person rather than multiple businesses and deal with multiple people," says Klayten. "If you ring them up and have a difficult problem with a job, they’ll put their heads together and sort it out as soon as they can."

Gavin nods in agreement. "They’re very responsive and proactive," he says. "They come to us with new ideas and suggestions on how to improve our operation, but they’re also there to fix problems whenever they do inevitably occur. In our experience, all their people go above and beyond to help out. We value Equip2 both on that relationship level and also on the operational level," he concludes.

Both companies also connect on similar values, which makes working together feel seamless. Gavin thinks this is owed to both businesses being family-run ventures.

"It feels like a family-orientated, collaborative-type business and that’s what we are, so we want to work with people who are responsive and want the best for us, and that’s what we find we get from Equip2."  

For more information, contact Bert or Paul on 0800 100 684 or visit

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