Geoff Scurr was just 16 when he bought his first bulldozer.
Two years later, the hard-working East Otago teenager bought
a contracting business.
He was determined to prove to a few critics, who thought he
would never make it work because he was so young, that they
Geoff Scurr Contracting Ltd recently celebrated its 25th
anniversary with a function at the East Otago Events Centre,
attended by several hundred people.
The business now employed six staff, along with casual
workers when needed. Forestry work was a major component,
along with irrigation dams, installing fibre-optic phone
cables, subdivisions, farm work and quarrying.
Work has been spread as far afield as Amberley and Mataura
and inland to Omakau.
The business operated from three quarries - the Kilmog
quarry, Te Tui gravel pit near Hawksbury Village and Mt
The couple recently imported a bulldozer from Texas, a John
Deere 850 C, which Mr Scurr located within an hour of
searching the internet.
There had been much hard work over the years and many
holidays missed out on, but he enjoyed what he did, Mr Scurr
A strong work ethic was instilled in him from a young age.
His first job was working after school for Keith Muldrew at
the Waikouaiti Butchery from when he was 10 through to 15.
He was paid 40c/kg to strip meat off ribcages and $2 an hour
to scrub tubs and make dog rolls in the school holidays. He
later turned down an offer of a butchery apprenticeship.
His wife, Tracey, said she had "no doubt" the job was where
he first made the connection between working hard towards a
goal and having money to pursue his dreams.
After leaving school, Mr Scurr worked for the Silverpeaks
County Council, mowing lawns and building bridges.
When he was 17, he took leave from the council and headed to
Australia, to work for farming couple Allen and Carolynne
On the expiry of his three months' leave, he resigned from
the council and stayed on in Australia for a further seven
He returned to New Zealand in 1986 to start work three days
later with local contractor Allan Fox.
As contracting work was limited at that time, he also did
casual farm and driving work.
In mid-1987, Mr Scurr was preparing to head back to Australia
to work in the mines, when he received a call from Mr Fox,
offering the opportunity to buy him out of the earthmoving
and agricultural business.
It bought him a bulldozer, a Land Rover, a couple of sets of
discs and a diesel tank.
He was a "one-man band" until 1990, when he bought his first
wheeled tractor and employed his first staff member.
Not long after buying the business, he bought his yard in
Park St, Waikouaiti, later building a workshop on the site.
Mrs Scurr remembered the 1990s as a decade of "droughts and
hard slog". Her husband was always worrying about the weather
and he was never home, working all the hours he could.
They sold the agricultural contracting business to Clive
Wilson in late 2002, having realised it was not going to fit
in with family life.
Son Jack was born in 2002 and, when daughter Olive arrived in
2005, Mr Scurr inadvertently got involved in a very hands-on
He pretended to call the midwife in the middle of the night,
because he thought his wife was overreacting and the birth
was still some time away, and he did not want to
inconvenience anyone. But that backfired when he ended up
delivering Olive himself.
Mr Scurr said his most important job was to keep his staff
busy. They were fortunate they had a "great crew" of staff,
including some long-serving employees.
Matt Hutcheson - Mrs Scurr's brother - has worked for the
business for 17 years.
Mrs Scurr was an integral part of the business, having
started doing administration work in a corner of her future
husband's bedroom. She took over doing the books from his
She saw an opportunity to get some business skills and gained
a master of business administration degree from Massey
As her husband was working so much in those early years,
10.30pm was probably the earliest he was home and it was not
uncommon for him to work 18 hours a day. She would have "gone
nuts" if she had not thrown herself into her career, she
The Scurr family now lives on a farmlet in Waikouaiti and
also owns a farm at Mt Watkin which runs beef cattle.