Inside Resources Publication (by Bernie Napp)

Oamaru-based Whitestone Contracting plans to grow by 20 per cent within the next one or two years, by exploiting niche markets for infrastructure.

That would take the Waitaki District Council-owned contractor’s annual turnover from $25 million to $30m, says business development manager Linton Clarke.

Whitestone currently returns to the community a dividend of around 6 to 8 per cent of its asset value, and sponsors the Whitestone Contracting Stadium and the Oamaru Opera House. A growth strategy based on taking niche opportunities has Whitestone reinvesting around $2m a year in capital expenditure. “It’s organic growth, controlled and sustainable growth,” Clarke says. “That’s why we are looking at these opportunities.” Whitestone employs around 120 staff, around 30 of which work on roading maintenance, with bases also in Alexandra, Twizel, Fairlie and Waimate. It owns a quarry at Cameron’s Pit near Oamaru producing 30-40,000 tonnes a year of quartz gravel and sand.

Some of our modern fleet
Many niche opportunities

A new hydrovac vacuum truck is due to arrive next month. This is a trenchless excavator that injects high-pressure water into the ground and sucks out material. It works best in soils and gravels up to a certain grade. This avoids conventional diggers inadvertently striking buried electric cables. While such machines have operated in Oamaru previously, there are none today. The hydrovac will be used internally, and hired out to others. “We are an innovative company investing in opportunities as they come to the market place,” Clarke says.

An example is a GPS-guided, guard rail machine that replaces and installs new steel or wooden guard rails, and wire rope safety fences on roads.

“We have pitched that piece of gear to secure some of that work,” Clarke says of the Government’s $600m Safe Roads alliance. This work may be integrated into Network Outcome Contracts, or tendered out separately.

Whitestone has its own asphalt plant, a Terex 80 tonnes per hour mobile plant, filling a gap in North Otago. This is a highly-efficient, very low emissions plant, using a baghouse to filter dust material. Asphalt is supplied internally to its own operations, and the company sells asphalt to external customers. Sand from Cameron’s Pit supplies the asphalt plant, complemented by sealing chip from other suppliers, sometimes in exchange for Whitestone’s sand, saving on costs by back-loading trucks.

The company recently acquired a fully-actuated, telescopic bar, bitumen sprayer with 12,000 litre-litre capacity.

In 2012 Whitestone bought Dunstan Sprayers, based in Alexandra, a vegetation control business. The company also has a state-of-the-art pipe burster for replacing old drains.

Road maintenance contracts

Whitestone has road maintenance contracts with Waimate District Council and Mackenzie District Council. The former has 646 kilometres of sealed roads, 694 km of unsealed roads, and 182 bridges.

Mackenzie District has 208km of sealed roads, 523 unsealed, and 97 bridges.

Whitestone partners with Fulton Hogan on the Central Otago NOC known as Aspiring Highways, one of the best performing NOCs in New Zealand. “We would not look at taking it on our own,” Clarke says. “It fits very well with our business to go in as a partner.” Whitestone also builds structures such as bridges, with concrete sourced from Firth or Allied Concrete, depending on the location.


Cameron’s Pit

More than 80 years in operation, Cameron’s Pit has a large resource, supplying mainly infrastructure needs in Oamaru. “It’s a rounded aggregate rather than a broken face, better for concrete in that sense,” Clarke says. “We still think there is merit for roading, as it is being used as a low-cost option.” Sand from the quarry has been used to make bunkers at the Millbrook golf course near Arrowtown, and has gone into the Todd Company’s Pegasus high-end subdivision north of Christchurch.

Camerons Pit in North Otago