Hawke's Bay excavator operator Tui Paikea's mantra is all about keeping his nerves in check as he prepares to compete in the National Excavator Operator Competition in Feilding.

"I've been revising over some study ... (and) just trying to keep on top of the nerves."

Paikea will be donning his hard hat and climbing into the cab of a 12-tonne Hitachi Zaxis 120 excavator to represent the region for the competition from March 14 to 16.

"This is my first year so looking forward to competition day...I am proud to be among the other finalists."

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An excavator in action during the National Excavator Operator Competition, 2018.
An excavator in action during the National Excavator Operator Competition, 2018.

He will be one of 10 regional champions from around New Zealand testing their excavator skills at a series of tasks which won't be revealed until competition day.

Previous challenges have ranged from tests of "real-world" skills such as traversing a trench or lifting and relocating a manhole cover, to crowd-pleasing tests of precision such as uncorking a champagne bottle using an excavator bucket's teeth or slam dunking a basketball into a two-storey concrete pipe.

"I'm expecting some new challenges on the day, but Ill take it as it comes," he says.

Paikea qualified for the event by winning the Hawke's Bay and East Cape Regional Excavator Operator Competition at the Hawke's Bay A & P Showgrounds in Hastings in October.

"It would mean a lot to take out this year's competition and bring home the win, mostly for my family, my employer Quality Roading Services Ltd Wairoa (QRS) and the opportunity to be representing Hawke's Bay, I am definitely ready to give it a go!"

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the annual competition organised by Civil Contractors New Zealand raising awareness of the skill involved in excavator operation and the rewarding careers available in civil construction.

Civil Contractors New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock says the competition's mix of skill, entertainment and high-tech machinery have become a highlight for the industry.

"Modern excavators are complex machines that take a lot of skill to operate.
"This competition aims to capture the public's imagination, demonstrate the talent possessed by excavator operators, and inspire people to consider a career in civil construction."

The finals event will take place on 15-16 March during the Central Districts Field Days at Manfeild Park.