Contracting firm changing hands

Blair Skevington (left) and Geoff Scurr have observed changes in the contracting industry over...
Blair Skevington (left) and Geoff Scurr have observed changes in the contracting industry over the years. Photo: Sally Rae.
Geoff Scurr and Blair Skevington have a few things in common.

Not only do they live in East Otago, but they showed entrepreneurial streaks from a young age, and shared a passion for the contracting industry.

Mr Scurr was just 16 when he bought his first bulldozer, an International BTD6, for $1800 — a substantial sum for a teenager.

Two years later, he bought a contracting business in Waikouaiti.

Mr Skevington bought the then-closed North Western Hotel in Palmerston when he was 19.

Being underage, he had to find a business partner with a bar manager’s licence to help him reopen it.

He later saw an opportunity to start his own contracting business, based in Palmerston, and it is now somewhat appropriate that he is taking over Mr Scurr’s business.

"It’s been good but it was time for a change. I told [Blair] one day I wasn’t going to do it forever and he said, ‘Come and see me when you’re ready’, and I did.

"I always said, when they start cutting down pine trees I cleared the ground for, it was time to do something else," Mr Scurr said.

After leaving school, Mr Scurr worked for the Silverpeaks County Council, mowing lawns and building bridges.

He headed to Australia when he was 17, returning to start work with local contractor Allan Fox.

Mr Fox later offered the opportunity to buy him out of the earthmoving and agricultural business.

Mr Scurr and his wife Tracey sold the agricultural contracting business in late 2002.

For the last 14 years, forestry has made up the bulk of the work done by Geoff Scurr Contracting Ltd.

They did work from Mataura to Waimate, and even as far as Amberley.

Five staff were shifting to Skevington Contracting, including Matt Hutcheson, Mrs Scurr’s brother, who has worked for the business for 21 years.

He was Mr Scurr’s offsider for all that time and was now managing the earthworks side.

He now had his brother-in-law’s phone number, while Mr Scurr noted that his calls had plummeted from about 70 to seven a day.

There had been huge changes over the years including technology, which meant he no longer had to spend his nights on the phone.

Health and safety changes had been a big one, and something that was needed.

He recalled bulldozing trees years ago, and regularly being hit by them.

While he still loved operating machinery, in latter years he tended to be more "ute bound", finding it more productive to keep everyone else working.

Mr and Mrs Scurr, who have two children, also have a farm inland from Waikouaiti.

Mr Scurr, who was continuing to help out Mr Skevington, had plenty of work to do on the farm, along with finishing some unfinished projects.

Mrs Scurr, who did the administration for the business, would miss the energy.

"It’s a high energy sort of business," she said.

She would also miss seeing the Scurr machinery out on jobs, saying there was a sense of pride when she saw it.

Mr Skevington said it was a "perfect" business to add to his own; it was established, with good staff and equipment, and it was local.

Skevington Contracting, which employed "40-something" staff, needed to diversify —  "we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future" — and it was a good fit.

Skevington Contracting, which will celebrate its 12th anniversary in November, was named the Otago and lower South Island fastest-growing services business in the Deloitte New Zealand Fast 50 awards in 2014.

For Mr Skevington, contracting was what he wanted to be involved with.

"I enjoy what I do now. It’s not easy but it makes life a lot easier if you enjoy what you’re doing," he said.

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