Havelock North became the first region to kick-off the regional qualifying rounds of the inaugural National Forklift Games.

The event took place at Mr Apple's packhouse on Napier Road where 10 local forklift drivers, including one woman, duelled for the top prize in the forklift rodeo.

Top spot was ultimately won by Valen Wharerau, who is assistant manager at Hill Road Coolstore and senior forklift trainer and assessor for Mr Apple, having been part of the company for almost 16 years.

It was a case of the master schooling his students after Wharerau out-did most of his colleagues to take the top prize.

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The quality of Wharerau's forklift operations earlier this week has made him a favourite to take out the inaugural New Zealand Forklift Games title next month.

Valen Wharerau's forklift operations has made him a favourite to take out the inaugural New Zealand Forklift Games title next month. Photo / Supplied
Valen Wharerau's forklift operations has made him a favourite to take out the inaugural New Zealand Forklift Games title next month. Photo / Supplied

Wharerau said it takes a lot of time to master the forklift, having operated one for seven years. It involves more than just pushing levers.

"It is a mentally demanding job," he said.

"When you first start driving your mind only focuses on one thing at a time, but as you gain experience you find that you actually need to think about multiple things at a time.

"Even when lifting a bin, you're using multiple levers simultaneously."

The Forklift Association chief executive Andrew Stone said people underestimate the level of skill it takes to move an object in three dimensions in real time, in a busy production environment.

"The number of fatalities tells us that this is really dangerous and mentally challenging work," Stone said.

"A big congratulations goes to Valen on his win and we look forward to seeing him duel it out with the best of the country in The Forklift Games."

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