Bucketloads of skill earns top trophy

By Genevieve Helliwell

A teaspoon of sugar proved to be the right amount of sweetness for Papamoa man James Lux after taking out the national excavator operator title.

From the cab of a 12-tonne excavator, Mr Lux popped a champagne cork, slam-dunked a basketball through a hoop, lifted a teapot to pour a cup of tea and even stirred a teaspoon of sugar in a teacup in the weekend competition which saw the best excavator operators compete against one another in practical and theory skills.

Mr Lux, who is an earthworks supervisor for Fulton Hogan HEB construction alliance for the Tauranga Eastern Link, battled 11 regional winners in a variety of challenges at the Central District Field Days in Feilding on Friday and Saturday. The finalists had to complete the safety and regulation part of the contest as well as manoeuvre a 12-tonne excavator through an obstacle course and stay clear of known hazards while completing a variety of tasks.

Mr Lux said his tidy work and technical ability saw him dominate the first day of competition and finish with 96 per cent - about 20 per cent higher than other finalists - so it put him in good stead for the second day of competition, which tested his fine motor-skills by completing precise tasks with the bucket of a digger.

"It was hard but it was a lot of fun. There's some healthy competition between competitors," he said.

About 11pm on Saturday night Mr Lux heard he had won the national title. It was his second time competing in the competition, which has been going since 1995.

"This is a really big thing for me," he told the Bay of Plenty Times. "And this competition is a good way to show the public what we do. It's a tough industry and it involves real skill to be able to do this so to come away with the win is pretty cool."

"It was a pretty good feeling to win because it's something I've strived to achieve."

His win saw him receive a large cup, trophy and about $4500 in prizes. He also won the Good Bastard award for the finalist seen as the most considerate and helpful.

Federation executive office Malcolm Abernethy said Mr Lux was a "very worthy winner".

Mr Lux first got into the cab of a digger when he was about 6 years old and followed in his father's footsteps. His younger sister was also an excavator operator. "I love doing it. It's not something I do all the time now but I always enjoy it."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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