Youth no bar for contractor

Tracey and Geoff Scurr, of East Otago-based Geoff Scurr Contracting, have marked 25 years in...
Tracey and Geoff Scurr, of East Otago-based Geoff Scurr Contracting, have marked 25 years in business. Photo by Sally Rae.
A John Deere 850 C bulldozer, recently imported from Texas. Photo by Geoff Scurr Contracting.
A John Deere 850 C bulldozer, recently imported from Texas. Photo by Geoff Scurr Contracting.

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 were wrong.

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 Pleasant quarry.

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 said.

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 Nobbs.

On the expiry of his three months' leave, he resigned from the council and stayed on in Australia for a further seven months.

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 delivery.

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 mother.

She saw an opportunity to get some business skills and gained a master of business administration degree from Massey University.

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 said.

The Scurr family now lives on a farmlet in Waikouaiti and also owns a farm at Mt Watkin which runs beef cattle.




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