John's no gold digger, but he'll be digging for gold at a national excavator competition

John Northcott may be a man of few words, but he certainly lets his 13-tonne digger do the talking.
Popping champagne bottles, pouring cups of tea and painting pictures with a brush are a few of the tricks to which the Taranaki man lends his excavator operating skills.

Yeah, yeah...yeah, the 39-year-old said when asked whether it took a fair amount of dexterity and precision to pull off the stunts.

And with 21 years of operating experience under his belt and having previously won the Taranaki regional excavator competition, Northcott isnt hesitating testing his skills on a national scale.


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Over Friday and Saturday, he will take part in a heavy metal showdown at the Central Districts Field Days at Manfeild Park in Feilding.

There, he will be vying against 11 others for gold in the CCNZ CablePrice National Excavator Operator Competition where he will be expected to perform both entertaining and real-world tasks, which could be anything from slam dunking a basketball into a two-storey concrete pipe to lifting and relocating a manhole cover.

This year marks the 27th anniversary of the annual competition, organised by Civil Contractors New Zealand to raise awareness of the skill involved in excavator operation and the careers available in civil construction.

Northcott, who works for Graham Harris Ltd, was not always going to be a digger operator.

SIMON O'CONNOR/Stuff
Northcott has been operating diggers for 21 years and his skill set now covers both entertaining and challenging tasks.

I used to play around with them when I was younger, he said, contemplating whether that was what sparked his career.

But I left school and started to become a butcher, then decided I didnt want to work inside so came and did this.

In the past two decades, he has worked in London and taken on demolition jobs inside the Sydney Opera House, growing his wide-ranging skills.

And while Northcott enjoys the challenges digger operating can bring, he has never looked to match strength with other drivers.


My boss is the one who put me up to it, he said of the impending competition.

I just got entered into it and turned up and had a go and yeah...

As for the performing in front of hundreds of onlookers, Northcott said hes a little bit nervous.

But it is what it is.

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