Pouring your heart and soul

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The time comes when experience and work ethic presents the opportunity to go it alone. Self-belief and great mentors have helped Tony and Kristina Salmons make their dream a reality.

Tony Salmons of Radius Concrete Pumping (aka ‘Putta Bean’) gave us our early wakeup call so we could come and see him in action on a fairly large pour at Mangere. The massive onslaught of heavy rain and lightning from the hours before were taking a breather. The previous day there had been 30,000 lightning strikes reported as a violent storm passed over the region. Less than an hour later we found the remote access lane at the end of Ihumatao Road and followed it down a wet and puddled track to an area that opened up and overlooked the Manukau Harbour. To our right was the large floor area that was all boxed up ready to go, an organised array of polythene, steel, mesh, and all manner of pipe work, lit in the bright floodlights the lads from Simon Walker All Seasons Concrete Ltd had set up.


Photo: The Hino en-route to the next job, looking staunch and purposeful.

Tony was setting up his pump and we went to see him. “We found it Tony! What a great spot this is, mate.” “Yes, it is,” he replied. “You wouldn’t think you’re in Auckland out here.” He worked the levers on the little remote control box slung around his waist, unfolding the pump’s legs. He placed pads underneath their feet. Once that part of the operation was done and he was happy with the level of his unit, he skilfully operated more levers on the box and the pump began to unfurl like Optimus Prime preparing to go into battle. Tony was full of concentration as he delicately manoeuvred the boom out over the job.


Photo: Tony at the other end of the operation on the controls…this end you can’t do with a remote.

Once that was done and he was satisfied, out came the slurry bucket and he began to mix up a solution to prep the pump and purge it through. The final touch was spraying the back of the pump with a ‘special brew’ to stop concrete splashes from sticking to his immaculate machine.
Looking at his Hino 500 Series and the DY Concrete Pumps’ unit in the array of floodlights Tony has attached to the truck, one could be forgiven for thinking it was new and had only been to a couple of jobs. However, that was far from the truth, as the 14th of December, which happened to be the day before, marked 12 months of continuous operation since Tony and his wife Kristina had purchased their truck and pump new. By this stage it was around 4am and everyone was waiting for the arrival of the first truck, which didn’t take long, the rumbling, gear changes and blaze of lights signalling the first Allied Concrete truck was here.


Photos: Concrete pump or not, Tony is fastidious how his business presents itself. Above: The truck gets a pretreatment prior to pumping to prevent the product sticking. Below: A clean off when finished.

The crew met the truck driver and pointed with flashlights and arms where to go around the pad and marry up with the pump. Without delay the driver backed up to the pump and Tony deftly climbed up and shone a torch into the large bowl of the 8-wheeler Mack to check the mix. After watching it spin around for a few minutes he was happy with the concrete and gave the all clear to the operator to start pouring it into the hopper. The pour today was for the Radha Soami Satsang Beas Christian Church, which had purchased the land to build its long-awaited project. Rhamon, who is running the project, was very pleased that the floor was finally being done and the weather looked like it might stay fine for the job.

Everyone was now focused on the task at hand. Tony was leaning into the long black rubber elephant trunk swinging off the boom, guiding the concrete exactly where the lads wanted it with his trusty remote control unit, also forcing out the puddles of water that had pooled on the polythene as he went. Simon Walker’s gang worked in synchronised unison to deal with the concrete that flowed, with rakes, screeds, floats, gumboots, and lasers. The guys from Allied were also on form as truck after truck rolled in, and two at a time, backed up to the hopper. It was shaping up to be the perfect pour. In what seemed no time at all half the floor was in and Tony had to reposition his unit to complete the pour. By 10am the floor was finished and the last few metres of concrete left in the last truck was redirected to the car park and poured out to be used as the base for the block edging they were doing. Nothing was wasted.


Photo: ‘Open all hours’

A total of 156m3 of concrete was used for the job and fortunately the sun came out to help the lads who were starting the finishing process with the power float. Tony began his cleaning routine, and in about three-quarters of an hour he had his truck all ready to head home. It was a chance to have a chat about his operation and what he and Kristina had achieved over the past 12 months. He had been in the concrete industry for more than 15 years, working both in residential and large commercial projects, operating a wide variety of plant and equipment as well as passing an apprenticeship in concrete construction. When an opportunity presented itself to go into the pumping business, both he and Kristina started scouting around for a rig to buy.

Kristina is no newcomer to the concrete game herself. She has been working in the industry since the age of 13, when her parents, Angus and Carol McMillan of Hastings, began Angus McMillan Concrete 25 years ago. It is definitely a family affair. Kristina learnt the trade from the ground up and studied civil engineering at Waikato Polytechnic, working in both residential and commercial concrete, also as a technician, sales consultant, and office manager. 



Tony and Kristina asked Angus and Carol about the venture, and Kristina’s parents told them: “If you want to go into concrete pumping, buy a brand new one from the ground up. You need reliability and you can’t afford to have a secondhand one break down on you, especially when it is the only one you have.” Sound advice. So they did their research and finally approached Peter Shivnan from PS Equipment in East Tamaki, the agent for DY Concrete pumps. They were very impressed with his knowledge, understanding, guidance, and advice on getting a pump set-up that was going to fit within their budget, and Tony says it was the best thing they did.

“Obviously, like all operators starting out, it was a stretch, but the effort is paying off.” Tony said the Hino 500 Series with an automatic transmission works well for the load it carries. “The change from 7th to 8th can be too high sometimes, you have to judge that one a bit.” His 31 ZR DY Pump is a dream to operate and he loves the set-up as it is easy to use, has a very good reach, and can deliver up to 90 cubic metres per hour. The success of Tony and Kristina’s venture in its first year has been down to the sound advice and help from good people, the support of family, and an old-school work ethic fuelled by the desire to succeed. They are doing themselves and their customers proud.

Photo: The Salmons family put a lot on the line to get their venture up and running, and so far the Hino, DY Concrete Pump, and good old-fashioned graft are returning the faith. From left back, Kristina, Tony, Bryer. At front Tyler and Charlie.