Special feature: SB Civil

By: The Editor, Photography by: DOWs Library and Supplied

In 2019, the Deals on Wheels Ed facilitated an introduction between Auckland contractor Josh Simpson and equipment owner Alistair McCourtie, which led to a partnership that has grown into a sizeable business

SB Civil equipment has become a common sight in the Auckland region

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is connecting industry people with others in what I reckon is a real-life version of LinkedIn.

Usually, it’s about machinery, but a few times, it has been an introduction between two parties who I think would complement each other in business.

That’s what happened when I organised contractor Josh Simpson to meet with equipment owner Alistair McCourtie.

Readers first met Josh Simpson in 2015

At that stage, I had known Josh for a few years and rated his machine operating and industry knowledge, which boded well for the assignments I had him cover for Deals on Wheels; it gave us a mutual friendship and a close working relationship.

Those of you who know Josh will agree that he’s a top bloke — a quiet, considered, and intelligent individual, with a fondness for wearing unfashionable work shorts all year round.

Even at a young age, Josh had a reputation for quality work

The fashion faux pax aside, for someone who was still in his 20s back then, he had a solid little business with a steadily growing collection of equipment and a reputation for quality work. I could see ambition in his eyes.

First contact

Josh and business partner Alistair McCourtie have built SB Civil into a significant business in a short space of time

In late 2018–early 2019, I had some conversations with Alistair. Not long back after selling a business in the Middle East, he was looking for a new challenge and liked the technology of the newly introduced Komatsu iMC (Intelligent Machine Control) excavators and invested in the brand, setting up as Blacks Hire Ltd.

Alistair was new to the industry and full of enthusiasm, but with not a lot of contacts or inside knowledge, going it alone was a big ask.

To me, teaming the two of them up seemed like a good idea, as it would sync the strengths of the two individuals and pool equipment together, which would broaden the scope of both businesses.

Not long after, I arranged for Josh to meet Alistair and put some content together for Deals on Wheels on Alistair’s 14-tonne Komatsu PC128USi at a job site in Matakana.

Being the first machine of its size and type in the country, both Josh and Alistair could see how embracing new types of technology could be beneficial for civil construction projects.

So, from that came the beginning of a new business relationship, which by June 2019 had been formalised as SB Civil Ltd (Simpson Blacks Civil).

Leaps and bounds

Among other tasks, SB Civil’s carpentry team takes care of concrete formwork and steel preparation

Fast forward to 2024 and the enthusiasm of both business partners has moved SB Civil ahead in leaps and bounds. The company currently employs more than 50 staff, which includes three full-time quantity surveyors, an in-house mechanic, and a carpentry crew of seven.

Their equipment is seen on numerous commercial projects throughout the Auckland region, being a preferred contractor to several leading construction companies.

"Our current focus is on school work, car parks, large landscaping projects, and whatever clients require us to do," says Josh. "One project we’re working on has a bulk cut of 10,000 cubic metres, with an additional 5000 cubes in the footings."

The machines

Caterpillar machinery makes up the bulk of the equipment fleet

Some of their early equipment purchases piqued my curiosity because I saw them as being outside of what was considered the norm in a conservative industry.

It showed that Josh and Alistair weren’t afraid of trying different approaches to improve efficiency and achieve better results for their clients.

Today, in 2024, some 19 machines sit on the SB Civil equipment register, which includes 13 excavators, ranging in size from 1.7 to 22 tonnes. Caterpillar machines feature as the brand of choice throughout, except for one orphan excavator.

"I had Cat when we first started, so we decided to keep with the brand as much as possible for continuity," says Josh. "It gives us good recognition, even with people outside the industry."

Several excavators are fitted with GPS positioning systems, putting the business in front of many others technology-wise and something Josh says is an investment necessity for large projects.

Support for all the excavation and construction work comes in the form of eight trucks with three of the four tippers towing trailers when necessary.



Like any forward-looking civil construction business, compliance features heavily and the company ensures they have good numbers of registered first aiders on the team and staff are qualified for the work they undertake.

Talking with Josh, which I do less regularly now since his time is taken up with running a busy company and being a dad to a growing family, I always come away impressed with the diverse types of projects they undertake. One of their latest is logging a block of land the business purchased at Ararimu.

"We only prepared the property and cut in the roading, but it’s interesting getting to know the loggers and learn how they work," says Josh.


"We both operate similar types of gear, but what we do is poles apart. It’s interesting to understand our different perspectives on machinery," says Josh.

Running projects and numerous crews can take its toll and Josh has had to learn to cope with the stress of having a sizeable business.

"While I started off running the jobs, Alistair is also now a project manager and runs projects, but I lean more towards the equipment side, and he’s office and numbers-focussed. It can be demanding, so I look forward to times when I can get back behind the controls of a machine.

"The other day I was out of cell phone reception for maybe three or four hours, stuck in the bush cutting in some roading, and it felt good being back behind the controls.

That buzz was shattered 15 minutes after I left the site, as all the missed calls and e-mails started flooding back in, but you know, it is what it is."

No doubt there are times when Josh hankers for the simplicity of being a hands-on machine operator, but I kind of think with what’s happening now, he’s on the way to fulfilling his original dream and there’s a lot of satisfaction in that.

For more information, visit sbcivil.nz.

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