Nightmare job: Arogen site foreman Dave Pemberton (left) and company co-owner Tony O’Meley in Lismore yesterday with the backhoe destroyed by a fire which Mr O’Meley says was deliberately lit.
Nightmare job: Arogen site foreman Dave Pemberton (left) and company co-owner Tony O’Meley in Lismore yesterday with the backhoe destroyed by a fire which Mr O’Meley says was deliberately lit. Dominic Feain

Vandals destroy backhoe

A BURNT-OUT backhoe is the last straw for drilling contractor Tony O’Meley.

Mr O’Meley’s company, Hunter Valley-based Arogen, has worked on major infrastructure projects all over Australia, but he has never experienced as much vandalism and theft as he has while working in Lismore.

“It’s been a nightmare this job – we work in a lot of country towns, but Lismore must have some problems,” he said.

Arogen is a specialist horizontal directional drilling company which is currently finishing off work on Country Energy’s project to put powerlines to the South Lismore industrial estate underground.

The company’s backhoe was set on fire soon after 4am yesterday.

A NSW Fire Brigade spokesman said firefighters responded to an emergency call at 4.20am.

“Firefighters managed to extinguish the fire by 5.30am, but the machine was totally destroyed,” he said.

Richmond Local Area Command crime prevention manager, Senior Constable Michael Hogan, said the fire was being treated as suspicious and an investigation was under way.

Standing beside the still smouldering wreckage with site foreman Dave Pemberton, Mr O’Meley said he drove straight up from Coffs Harbour, where he was working on the Pacific Highway bypass, to examine the damage.

“It is insured, but it is the costs like downtime that you don’t recover that really hurt,” he said.

“Since we’ve been here we’ve had pipes and tool boxes knocked off, windows smashed, excavators broken into and UHF radios stolen.

“Someone ripped all the LED lights off our B-double truck and stole almost $4000 worth of chains.”

A demoralised Mr O’Meley said his crew was wrapping up and heading to the next job in Pottsville, where the backhoe was needed.

“The next job is in a residential area where we can’t use an excavator so we were counting on the backhoe,” he said. “We’ll have to organise something else or get another one straight away.

“It’s very disappointing. We come to a community to build infrastructure and to give blokes some work and this happens.

“Other companies are flying guys in from the US, but we’re committed to training young blokes here.”

Snr Const Hogan urged anyone who witnessed theincident, or had information that could assist investigators with their inquiries, to call Lismore detectives on 66260599 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.



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