Marsh Ihaka might just have one of the most stress-busting jobs going.

Every weekday, from 7am to 4pm, he's at the controls of a 20-tonne digger, mastering its rotating steel jaw to rip parts out of around 50 unwanted or wrecked cars a day.

The Weymouth dad of two young daughters calls the machine the "jaws of death for cars" and describes his new job — he's been in it about four months — as a dream come true.

"I love it. I'm like a little kid in a candy shop ... and it's stress relief as well, as long as you're doing it in a safe way."

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His favourite digger is a 20T beast nicknamed Judith the Jaw in honour of former police minister Judith Collins, who famously earned the moniker "Crusher" when she introduced a law in 2009 allowing vehicles to be seized and destroyed.

Marsh Ihaka, digger operator at Zebra Broken Car Collection Company, loves his dream job. Photo / Greg Bowker
Marsh Ihaka, digger operator at Zebra Broken Car Collection Company, loves his dream job. Photo / Greg Bowker

But when the Herald visited Ihaka at Zebra Broken Car Collection just before Christmas, he was instead relying on Oscar the Dinosaur, a 17T machine with less oomph than its fellow favoured workhorse.

"I prefer Judith because she moves a little faster. She's got the better dance moves."

Once in the operator's seat, the 39-year-old works the controls to wrench the engine, radiator, suspension and wiring out of each vehicle before smashing the roof down and stacking it with others also at the end of their life.

Much as he enjoyed his job, there were times when he wanted to look away, Ihaka said.
Dropping the powerful jaws on vintage cars, among them British Wolseleys and Vauxhalls, and on his beloved V8s tugged the heartstrings most.

"Most of the good parts have been taken off them, but you can tell how well they've been looked after."

But it was a momentary blip in a job that had changed his life in more ways than one.

Before he started at Zebra Broken Car Collection Ihaka drove a paver for a road labouring crew, a role that left him exhausted at the end of each day.

"This has given time back to me, to give to my family, because now I've got energy when I get home. I was [in my old job] for two years, but I wanted something better.

"I found it."

I'm the person who ...

Monday: Makes fireworks

Tuesday: Helps people bungy jump

Wednesday: Looks after the animals at the zoo

Thursday: Rings the church bells

Friday: Maintains the outside of the Sky Tower

Yesterday: Police via jet ski
Today: Destroys your wrecked car