Say hello to Greg Kelk – the former Tauranga Boys’ College student with a unique set of skills (and a few impressive toys) who has become the Bay’s go-to expert for all things drilling.
WORDS LAURA TUCK / PHOTOS BRYDIE THOMPSON
“I’ve spent the past eight years on deep-sea oil- and gas-drilling rigs, so it’s nice to finally be home,” says Greg with a smile. “We go overseas to work hard and play hard, but we always come home – it’s the Kiwi way.”
For someone who’s recently opened a new business – one that’s really taking off – Greg’s a particularly easy-going guy. Perhaps it’s the fact he no longer spends half his downtime at the airport. “After starting my career in mineral and exploration drilling, I jumped at the opportunity to go offshore, which meant splitting my time between here and Australia,” he says. “There were 150 of us on board – a real mixture of people from all walks of life. The guys from Texas were quite hard cases, and there were lots of Aussies and a few other Kiwis.”
A far cry from your typical nine to five, Greg was flown via helicopter to a semi-submersible drilling rig off the coast of Karratha, Western Australia (and often flown back to Perth as a precaution during cyclone season) to work a ‘month on, month off’ roster. “There’s no better place to perfect your trade than in a wild environment, right?!” laughs Greg. “Towing the rig up to Singapore and Malaysia through the Lombok Strait for maintenance was incredible and we were always surrounded by beautiful sea life; it wasn’t unusual to see 10m whale sharks cruising around the rig.
“But the long-term plan was always to return home, and I couldn’t think of a better spot than where I grew up to put down some roots while enjoying everything Tauranga’s known for: the community, beach, golf and fishing.”
Greg did his homework on how best to utilise the skills he’d developed over the years and launched Topdrill in March. With a toolkit consisting of state-of-the art equipment and more than 10 years’ experience in commercial and residential drilling, the owner-operator says that thanks to the building boom, demand for drilling services has skyrocketed.
“My skill set is highly specialised and I saw an opportunity to fill a growing gap in the market here. Tauranga is known for its hilly terrain, so at Topdrill we see a lot of drainage issues, from orchards to residential soak holes. We do everything from simple drainage solutions for new developments to offal holes on farms, as well as residential plumbing and foundations.
“I wanted to make sure that project size was never an issue, so we’ve got a powerful 4×4 truck with a fully rotating drill package that can handle any site, no matter how tricky. We also drill holes up to 6m deep. Although it’s not 30,000ft like I was doing offshore, it makes us pretty unique.”
Topdrill’s customer base has grown steadily across the Bay, and although Greg’s excited at the prospect of continued expansion, the bespoke customer experience he’s become known for remains his number-one priority. “It’s important to me that our clients always experience the benefits of an owner-operator business, which means I’m always the one to answer the phone. Being local, I’ve also got a great network of other professionals in the industry who I can call on whenever a job requires another pair of hands,” he says.
“I’m happy to share my expertise with clients right from the get-go, because building strong relationships is what I love most about my job. I get to meet lots of amazing new people while being out and about in this beautiful place we call home.”