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Heavy machinery . . . Steve McLeod, of Steve McLeod Contracting, has a staff member on the ground in Kaikoura helping repair the area's earthquake-damaged rail network. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

An Oamaru man has seen at first hand the devastation wrought by last year’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake on the rail network around Kaikoura.

The quake, which hit just after midnight on November 14, killed two people, severely damaged infrastructure and property, and caused massive landslips that blocked major roads and rail passages.

Steve McLeod Contracting Ltd, owned by Oamaru’s Steve McLeod, has equipment on the ground in the Kaikoura area, in the form of a digger and a loader, and at least one staff member who regularly travelled to the area to help Kiwirail crews reinstate the shattered rail network.

The company has six machines based in the South Island that are contracted out to Kiwirail.

Mr McLeod said the nature of work was critical to the recovery effort.

“It’s all earthquake stuff. North of the Clarence [River, north of Kaikoura] is really, really bad.

“We’re putting the track back on and there’s an outfit called NCTIR [North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery] that’s doing the formation, and we’re putting track sets on .. putting it back.

“We’re working with the Kiwirail gangs and completing it so the trains can run on it again.”

While he had not been part of the project himself, he had delivered concrete rail sleepers to the area and had seen the scale of the damage several months after the quake.

“It’s amazing. In one part of it, on the track, there’s a passing loop, and the original height and the new earthquake height was a difference of 10m .. it was a big hill.

“What actually happened was the earthquake was that violent that it shook the track all over the show, basically. It was quite incredible.”

He said, in other areas, critical infrastructure – including bridges – was still standing, but was not accessible because approaches had sunk “quite a bit”.

Work had not yet started in other hard-to-reach areas.

The work was challenging but was being handled well, Mr McLeod said.

“I’ve just been dropping off materials up there, but they’re working reasonably hard .. it’s a major job.”

Mr McLeod took over the management of a Dunedin-based company, now known as Steve McLeod Contracting, in December, and throughout the year had purchased its machinery and acquired its staff, a process to be finalised at the end of this month.

His Oamaru business of the same name was taken over by Brett and Hayley Ambler last year and was now known as McLeod Contracting Ltd.