Cover story: ABC Landscapes

By: Lyndsay Whittle , Photography by: Lyndsay Whittle


Two second-hand Mitsubishi six-wheelers that arrived in NZ almost a decade ago, have now found home at a West Auckland-based landscaping company

The trucking pundits from around 1999–2000 chuckled to themselves when a shipment of second-hand Mitsubishi six-wheelers arrived on our shores. "They won’t last very long" was the cry of the day, but oh how wrong they could have been.

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Will Degenkolbe (extreme right) with Deb and Jazz

I must put my hand up here and say that although I’d never have the temerity to describe myself as a trucking pundit, I remember giving these trucks around five years at the most before they’d be—well I can’t use the adjectival form of the word in this medium, but suffice to say, I thought they’d be unserviceable in a short space of time.

Having seen a black and silver one of these old faithful belonging to ABC Landscapes in West Auckland, shooting down the road with a full load, prompted the Ed to send me off to talk to their current owner to get the inside running on how well his truck has served him.

The short answer—it served the owner, William (Will) Degenkolbe, for the better part of 10 years. Now, for the long version.

Mitsubishi twins

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One of the twin Mitsubishi trucks at ABC Landscapes

I’m obviously not as observant because if I’d taken the time to look more closely, I would’ve seen that of the two Mitsubishis at ABC Landscapes, one has a bulbar while the other doesn’t and the tipper bodies look quite different from each other when given more than just a casual glance.

Armed with a modicum of knowledge of the original Kiwi owners of these second-hand imported Mitsubishis operated locally, my first question to Will was if one of his trucks ever belonged to Bruce Byers—a contractor of a few years back.

His swift reply was a yes and he added that it’s still going fine, albeit after having its cylinder head replaced recently.

Here again, I must cut the truck a little bit of slack, as in its previous life it would’ve spent the majority of its time travelling in and out of Piha, mostly with a digger on its back or with eight to 10 cubes of cleanfill or aggregate in its bin—a task that’s sure to test any vehicle, new or old, to its limits on Piha road’s steep gradients.

Bruce retired some years ago and moved away from the area and unfortunately, I’ve been unable to track him down to find out some more of the truck’s early history in New Zealand.

What I do know is that it replaced an ageing RG15 Commer/Dodge having had their respective bodies swapped over from the previous vehicle.

Little is known of the previous life of Will’s second Mitsubishi, other than it was operated by a contractor from Helensville, north of Auckland, and although it’s purely conjecture, it probably wouldn’t have endured such a gruelling life as its current stablemate due to a generally flatter topography in the Helensville area.

The better of the two

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ABC Landscapes run a selection of well-known branded equipment

When asked if Will would give a comparison between the reliability of the two trucks, he said it would be unfair, as he’s owned the Helensville truck for around 10 years and has only had the other truck for about four or five years.

With both trucks having now been in the country for the better part of 20 years, it’s
only natural that Will and his team have to put a bit of effort in with keeping cab rust at bay, but other than that, he says the trucks are both capable of putting in a good day’s hard graft.

Driver Deb reckons they’re both great old trucks and she’s even given them names: Doris and Bertha—pet names for working pieces of machinery indeed.

Simple branding

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ABC works on a many varied jobs each year

Will says he started ABC Landscapes about 25 years ago after returning to New Zealand from a working holiday in England where he was operating machines—a lifestyle that he came to love.

He chose the name ABC Landscapes back in the days before the internet when it was advantageous to have a company with as many early alphabet letters at the beginning of the branding in order to be the first name looked up for the White and Yellow Pages.

ABC Landscapes currently has five staff, including Will, and it operates excavators from 0.8-tonne right the way up to a 13.5-tonne Hitachi, along with compact track loaders and associated landscaping machinery.

Will says no job is too big or small for his team of experienced operators and that they cover the entire Auckland region and beyond, carrying out general excavation and landscaping, under-house digs, tight space work, and equipment hire.

Regardless of the simplicity of the branding back in the 1990s, the ABC name obviously had commercial appeal and the business took off and has reached a point now where Will says he doesn’t have to advertise to get work. Word of mouth seems to do that job perfectly.

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