Plant Operator (Heavy Machinery Operator)

As a Plant Operator, you will use heavy machinery to construct or cross obstacles and keep our troops and equipment moving. You will be working in challenging conditions at home and overseas to carry out and support earthworks, road construction and troop movement activities for the NZ Army and other government agencies. You will operate a variety of heavy construction vehicles such as bull-dozers and cranes, as well as military bridging systems and combat tractors.

In camp you will use vehicles such as bull-dozers, loaders, scrapers, excavators, graders, cranes and rollers to complete tasked construction work. This can include horizontal construction projects in military bases or repairing tracks and roads for other government departments. You could be employed to support civil defence, scrub fires, road repairs and flood control.

When you aren’t tasked, you will keep practising with these vehicles in camp, and conduct combat field engineering training using the gap crossing system and combat tractors.

You are responsible for the efficient and safe operation of all the vehicles you operate, as well as daily servicing and maintenance. You will also identify and report all faults before they turn into major mechanical failures.

On deployment you may work as an individual, in a small construction team or as part of a larger unit. Your tasks will include excavation, road repair and construction, as well as quarry work. You will regularly be involved with construction aid projects overseas which will see you working alongside other nations. Plant Operators have been deployed on operations in Bosnia, Timor Leste, Iraq, Afghanistan and Solomon Islands. Regular annual exercises enhance your skills throughout the South Pacific and in Antarctica.

A key part of the Plant Operators role on deployment is the concept of 'winning resources'. This is where Army Engineers take an existing natural or disused resources and make them usable for Army operations, such a securing a fresh water supply or recycling construction materials to create temporary runways or tracks.

As your career progresses, you will become a fully qualified plant supervisor. This includes greater responsibility as you manage a variety of tasks and construction sites. You will develop leadership, project management, and teaching skills to enable you to oversee and assist others in the trade and organisation. Over the course of your career you will be tasked outside of the plant trade environment, providing further variety and challenges.

Careers in the Army are well-rewarded, as well as being diverse and exciting. As you become more experienced and move up through the ranks, gaining additional skills and qualifications, you will see your salary rise accordingly.

While undertaking initial Recruit Course you will be paid as a Recruit (see attached pay table). On completion of your Recruit Course you will be paid as a Private and your pay will continue to increase as your career progresses.

  • You must be at least 17 years of age.
  • Meet the citizenship & security requirements to gain CV security clearance for this trade.
  • Class 1 restricted drivers licence is required.

You must have achieved the NCEA level 1 Literacy and Numeracy requirements

Find out more about the NCEA levels and certificate requirements

  • You must be medically fit for service.
  • Colour perception restrictions may apply.

Upon successful enlistment into the Army you will be posted to Waiouru Army base. Here you will do 16 weeks of basic military training to find out if you have what it takes to be in the Army, and learn various subjects including:

  • Organisation and Administration
  • Army Customs and Protocol
  • Drill and Parades
  • Military Field Skills and Weapon Training
  • First Aid
  • Physical Fitness


(8 weeks) Location: Linton Military Camp (near Palmerston North)
This course introduces you to the combat side of being an engineer. It covers the basics of field engineering including:

  • Constructing bridges
  • Finding and maintaining water supply
  • Use of explosives
  • Constructing field defences
  • Constructing and breaching obstacles
  • Disarming booby traps
  • Operating inflatable boats (RHIBs) for troop movement
  • Searching for hazards using specialist equipment such as metal detectors
  • Explosive hazard clearance


(14 weeks) Location: Linton Military Camp
This course covers the operation and maintenance of bulldozers, loaders, scrapers, excavators, graders and rollers. It is a combination of both theory and practical work, with course competencies aligned to the NZQA framework.

You will be posted to Plant Troop, 25 Engineer Support Squadron (25 ESS) based at Linton Camp, for a minimum of two years. After this you could be posted to the 25 ESS Plant detachment in Waiouru.