Whanganui local Kian Belk’s photo of welding and excavation at a massive sheet pile retaining wall took top spot in the latest round of the EPIC Photo Competition.

Kian’s winning photo shows welders at work connecting ‘waler beams’ (horizontal support beams) to a new retaining wall under construction above the Whanganui River, while a long-reach excavator behind them ‘batters’ the bank to create an angled slope.

The project had been initiated to restore a road that had been undermined by slips and drop-outs following the impacts of Cyclone Dovi in 2022 and deteriorated since.

“It was an absolutely massive retaining wall on the Whanganui riverbank,” Kian said.

“One hundred and forty metres of sheet pile … We had a piling team in with a 160 tonne crane, and used vibration to put the sheet pile in and create the wall.”

Now working in a project manager and site supervisor role, Kian said he’d been working with Downer since he finished school a little over four years ago. He was supported by the company with a four-year cadetship programme that allowed him to work and study, resulting in completion of a Diploma in Civil Engineering while on the job.

The project was his first big job in charge, and it was the best and most interesting job he’d ever worked on, he said.

“The large scale of it meant it was a big step. There was a lot going on. Some days you’d have three, four or five crews on site doing different activities each day. What I did on the job was part hands-on, and part looking after people on a big site.”

Kian said running the site had also allowed him to use a special drone equipped with a camera for site assessment of inaccessible areas, and to document the project. He also had access to the site camera, which he used to take some amazing photos – like the competition winning snap, which features his welding subcontractor Andy at work.

As for his advice to people looking to enter the industry? Just make a start and get into it!

“This work is enjoyable. It’s very rewarding. There are a wide range of possibilities and fields to go into … It’s good! Everyone’s got the ability to be their own person on site.”

Runner-up James McCallum of Whitestone Contracting in Central Otago took this round’s runner-up prize, entering a photo taken by young site engineer Jonty Comins on a magnificent morning in Luggate, just outside of Wanaka.

The photo features Shane Cook – a multi skilled machine operator – performing a walkover on the site to check the newly installed service trenches.

“It was a good morning”, James said.

Third place went to Alana Stilborn of Smith Crane and Construction, for a spectacular shot of a crane at work on the Waikouaiti Bridge.

This competition saw no shortage of quality entries, meaning the judges awarded several spot prizes.

Perhaps the most notable went to Patrick ‘PJ’ Gallagher of Gallagher Civil in South Otago, who entered a photo of himself on site with his ‘Chief Morale Mascot’, Minnie the golden retriever.

Originally from England, Patrick migrated to New Zealand in 2012 to work on the Christchurch rebuild, most recently starting his own civil construction business.

He said Minnie has been with him since a puppy, and rides with him regularly, so she is used to construction sites and how to behave around them. He says she would rather be with him while at working than stuck at home.

“Dogs don’t get stressed like people do, so if there’s a rough project, she’s often a real morale booster and keeps everyone going.”

Top prize this round was a scale model Volvo L350H wheel loader, sponsored by TDX, a $300 gift card from Z, EPIC apparel and more. Other prize winners were also awarded gift cards and EPIC apparel.

The EPIC Photo Competition is a partnership between Contractor Magazine and EPIC Careers in Infrastructure. Themed ‘on the tools’, this round asked entrants to capture the essence of what it meant to be on the tools.

The winners

EPIC photo comp first prize waler beam welding

First prize went to Kian Belk of Downer for his photo of welders installing a sheet pile retaining wall above the Whanganui River.


EPIC photo comp second prize Lake McKay Trenching

Second prize went to James McCallum for his team’s photo of an early morning start to trenching work while constructing the Lake McKay Subdivision.


EPIC photo competition third place SCC-Waikouaiti

Third prize went to Alana Stilborn of Smith Crane and Construction for her photo of their civil construction team working on KiwiRail Bridge 202 near Waikouaiti.

Spot prizes

Patrick PJ Gallagher and his dog Minnie

Patrick ‘PJ’ Gallagher and his dog Minnie.


Pip Watson from Collins and Sons – Laying ducting for services to be installed

Pip Watson from Collins and Sons – laying ducting for services to be installed.


Kale from Feary Group – Dawn breaking at Islington

Kale from Feary Group – dawn breaking at Islington.

Want more? Check out all the entries, and the photos from previous rounds on our EPIC Photos page>>