Bay of Plenty’s James Lux wins National Excavator Operator title

By: New Zealand Contractors' Federation

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James Lux from Papamoa Beach is officially New Zealand’s top excavator operator after battling stiff competition to win the coveted national title.

Bay of Plenty’s James Lux wins National Excavator Operator title
Bay of Plenty’s James Lux wins National Excavator Operator title

James beat 11 other regional champions to take first place in the National Excavator Operator Competition on Saturday after two days of gruelling challenges at the event, organised by the New Zealand Contractors' Federation and held at the Central District Field Days in Feilding.

James, who works for Fulton Hogan, took home a clutch of prizes including the handsome Hitachi excavator trophy – to take pride of place among his extensive collection of diecast model excavating machines.

2011 national champion Matthew Hareb from Waitara, the current Taranaki regional champion, won second place and Hawkes Bay champion Steve Galbraith from Napier was third.

James, who was competing in the final for the second time, also won the Humes Good Bastard award – voted for by contestants – for the finalist seen as the most considerate and helpful.

Another former national champion, Brian Hoffmann of Auckland, won the One Day Job category.

Federation executive office Malcolm Abernethy said that James had been a very worthy winner.

"James had a great day on Friday, blitzing the field by 20 per cent for that day," he said. "Steve Galbraith did the same sort of thing on Saturday but James remained consistently in the top four for each activity."

James, who has worked on projects including the Tauranga Eastern Link, says that he loves every minute of operating excavators and enjoys taking part in the famously gruelling contest.

"How can you not love this industry," he said. "You are outside driving big toys and changing the face of the earth."

The final is also famous for its surprise challenges with contestants having to perform delicate tasks using the buckets of 12-tonne Hitachi machines provided by major sponsor CablePrice.

In recent years these have ranged from popping a champagne cork, flipping sausages on a barbecue, slam-dunking a basketball through a hoop and lifting a teapot to pour a cup to tea.

"This year we thought we'd take the teapot challenge to a new level and got them to add sugar to a cup of tea using the excavator," said Mr Abernethy.

"However, the rest of the competition is deadly serious, with contestants undergoing two days of rigorous construction, planning and loading challenges designed to test their operator skills and industry knowledge to the limit.

"Excavator operating is a highly skilled profession. Operators need to be prepared to deal with a huge range of routine and unexpected situations."

The National Excavator Operator Competition is sponsored by: CablePrice; Hirepool; Humes; Z Energy; Vector, Chorus and Dial B 4 U Dig.

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