But, in fact, it’s a complicated job, demanding great skill and patience.
“There are a lot of procedures to follow,” says Gerry Breen, the owner of Darwin-based NTEX. “And, of course, safety comes first.”
He prefers to use the word “deconstruction” rather than demolition – because that’s what it usually is: carefully taking buildings apart, rather than flattening them.
NTEX, which has been operating successfully for more than a decade, has three divisions: civil construction, demolition and wet plant equipment hire. Its latest job was “deconstructing” the John Stokes Square housing estate in Nightcliff for the Northern Territory Government. The $1.1 million contract involved removing 75 units.
“We didn’t just go in and bulldoze the lot,” says Gerry. “First we had to eliminate contaminated material, such as asbestos.”
He subcontracted local specialist company Asbestos Solutions to do the job.
“We have to make sure there’s no damage to the environment. There’s a lot of legislation surrounding this aspect of the work. We then had to remove all the glass, wood and metal from the buildings. This was partly to ensure that the concrete wasn’t contaminated.”
The concrete was then processed, crushed and turned into more usable products, such as general and select fill, instead of going to landfill. It took eight weeks to remove John Stokes Square.
NTEX, which stands for NT Excavation, also worked on the demolition of the Mandorah Hotel and a social housing complex at Parap.
The civil construction arm of the company has worked on civil excavations at Tindal RAAF base in Katherine, the AACo abattoir building, an anaerobic treatment plant, and building water treatment dams at the Batchelor meatworks, which is expected to reopen later this year.
Gerry employs a staff of 10 and uses Territory subcontractors whenever possible.
“I’m definitely not against interstate companies operating in the NT,” he says. “After all, they also employ many Territorians. But what frustrates me is when an interstate company wins a major tender in the Territory and then brings in subcontractors from interstate to complete the works.”
Gerry says there are many “excellent” local construction companies in the Territory, such as Sunbuild, Territoria Civil and, in particular, Sitzler.
“Sitzler’s use of local subcontractors, along with their good business practices and prompt payment schedules, really enhances their capacity to deliver on Territory projects. These local companies are truly Territorian – they live here, their families shop here, their kids go to school here. The money circulates more in the NT. They do the right thing.”
Gerry faces the same challenge as every other Territory business: finding and retaining good workers.
“I do it by natural selection. I interview them and give the ones I think can do the job a go. If they don’t work out, well, they move on. Getting the right people is a problem for every company here. You can have as much equipment as you like, but it’s the person in the driver’s seat or the office who matters.”
Gerry, the youngest of eight children, was born in Northern Ireland. His father passed away suddenly at the age of 52, leaving his mother to raise the younger children on her own. The three older boys emigrated to Australia and settled in the Territory, so Gerry as a boy visited them regularly from 1982 before moving permanently in the early 1990s.
Gerry is optimistic about the Territory’s future and feels the NT Government is being unfairly criticised for the state of the economy.
“They inherited a lot of the problems from previous administrations going way back,” he says. They are doing their best in very tough circumstances. Michael Gunner can only drive in the nail with the hammer he’s got.” TQ