He's been delighting kids with his books and cool stories for two decades.

Now Northland's Doug the Digger — aka Alistair McIntyre — has received a national Service Award for his role in helping young people learn the skills to operate excavators and start careers in civil construction.

The author of the popular children's book Doug the Digger has been an ambassador for Duffy Books for the past 20 years and regularly travels to schools around New Zealand, inspiring children to do their best.

His school visits take him to every corner of the country, from Te Hapua to Stewart Island.

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He also attends Civil Contractors New Zealand national and regional excavator operator competitions, where he runs a mini-dig to give young people the chance to take the controls of an excavator.

The award was presented in at a dinner attended by more than 450 industry leaders and business owners on August 2 at the Civil Contractors New Zealand National Conference in Rotorua.

"I'm still blown away with it," McIntyre said.

"It's nice to get recognition from your peers in the industry."

McIntyre, from Whangarei, said civil construction was his "life and passion".

Identifying and developing young people to take on leadership roles - such as Clements Quarries manager Jake Rouse, who became the country's youngest quarry manager at age 22 - was most satisfying, he said.

"I just love this industry. All the people that want to rabbit on about finding young people … they are out there. It's also about us old buggers stepping back, believing in them, supporting them, giving them opportunity, a bit of guidance and then allowing and having the brains to let them take over."

Also known as "Mr Mac", McIntyre's passion for civil construction started at a young age, following in the footsteps of his father who was a civil engineer.

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He left school at 15 and by the age of 17 had his own business.

But a serious workplace injury at age 25 led to a turning point in his life, and he decided to follow his dream of writing a book, which was published in 2000 after he went back to school for literacy lessons.

Civil Contractors New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock said the award recognised McIntyre's passionate commitment to introducing young people to careers in civil construction.

"Alistair shares his passion and love for the industry with every person he interacts with. His time travelling the country presenting the Doug the Digger roadshow and spent helping young people find meaningful careers in civil construction has been a real asset to our industry."