Dave and his team keep on learning
Dave Clemence’s father used to say “four years or forty – you know nothing son”, and Dave wondered what he was talking about.
Having clocked over more than 40 years in the drilling industry, the well-known managing director of Clemence Drilling Contractors Ltd now knows exactly what he was talking about.
Not one known to suffer the foolish lightly, Dave says there is no substitute for experience but sometimes the more you know the more you realise how little you know, particularly in the drilling business.
A third generation driller, with a family history in the industry spanning back some 130 years to his grandfather’s days, Dave built his own business up from scratch. Rightfully so, he is proud of his achievements.
When Dave’s father passed away in 1979, Dave went to work for the Dept. of Scientiﬁ c Research, DSIR, gaining extensive experience in geophysics,
working in the drilling section over several years.
During that time he travelled to many places around the world on drilling assignments including three trips to Antarctica. In 1986, he decided to “have a crack” at establishing his own business drilling water wells. He still has the original rig, Nora.
“Starting the business from nothing back in the 80’s when interest was 22% – you could hear it ticking over at night. It was only because we had youth, ignorance and enthusiasm back in those days that we survived.
“Over the years the business gradually and steadily grew. I had a really good foreman in Johnny Blundell. He teamed up with me quite early on. He was a legend as far as drilling went.”
Based in North Canterbury, Clemence Drilling Contractors now employs over 50 people ranging from electricians, hydraulic engineers, ﬁtter-welders, ﬁtter-turners and mechanics, hydrologists, drillers, truck drivers and ofﬁce staff.
Dave says he has three generations from the Smith family working for him—the eldest being 80 years of age. He still comes in every day from 6am.
The company has an extensive range of equipment including 25 drilling rigs generators up to 800Kva, diggers up to 50 tonne and truck and trailer units.
Dave’s latest pride and joy are two new shallow oil and gas rigs to do some deep investigation holes.
“We mainly operate in Canterbury up to Kaikoura,” says Dave. “We’ve got three teams working up in Kaikoura at the moment doing wells and pumps and redevelopment and those sort of things.
“The same sort of work that we did in Christchurch but on a smaller scale on earthquake affected properties. We now have a depot on Beach Road in Kaikoura.”
Clemence Drilling Contractors played an integral role just after the February 2010 Canterbury quakes working in conjunction with the Christchurch City Council to keep the city’s water wells going.
Dave says it was a task made possible only by the likes of Mike Currie, Graham Black and Mark Christison.
A large number of the city’s 150 odd wells had been knocked out in the eastern zone. “That was a big effort,” reﬂ ects Dave.
“Over the next ﬁve years we brought it all back on track. A lot of the wells had sheared off, silted up, pumps had died, there were no generators in a lot of places, no power.
“So we had to put generators in a lot of places. We had to source and place over 35 generators at the ocean outfall and sewage stations to keep Sumner in water and the eastern and hill suburbs running.”
He says that something like 30 new wells had to be dug and connected into the reticulation over a ﬁve-year period from 2011 to 2016.
Dave says that he has many more missions yet to do in life including an upcoming trip to the Arctic Circle sometime in the near future for ice-core sampling and a couple of deep investigation holes, hence the new rigs.