Specialised team to tackle projects – Downer Waikato

“The intent was to identify the right culture and a compatible team. Local hapu have been involved from the inception of the project and a governance group called Roopu Kaumatua works alongside us. It’s worked incredibly well.”

Downer Waikato stakeholder manager Matt Kofoed

Downer Waikato is building its capacity to undertake construction projects in the region.
The company has set up a specific team of around 40 staff to work on construction projects, from small works for the general public such as driveways and small earthworks, right up to large-scale construction. No matter the scale of the project Downer has the team for the job, says Downer Waikato stakeholder manager Matt Kofoed.
“At Downer, our customers are at the heart of everything we do and Downer is a trusted name with the right processes and operative structures to back up any size project. This gives our clients a lot of security,” he says.
No matter what the project Downer works closely with customers to help them succeed, using world-leading insights and solutions. With a history dating back over 150 years Downer designs, builds and sustains assets, infrastructure and facilities and is the leading provider of integrated services in Australia and New Zealand and employs approximately 50,000 people across more than 300 sites.
The company’s construction project line is currently very busy and includes small works for Waitoa Tannery, private concreting and asphalt car park works around Hamilton for business owners and it is about to commence work to realign State Highway 30 and replace the Kopaki rail overbridge south of Te Kuiti for Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.
The new overbridge spanning the North Island Main Trunk line will be built alongside the existing timber one, with the bridge approaches on SH30 and the entrance to Kopaki Road both realigned to make them safer.
The first stage of the project involves realigning SH30 and moving the intersection of the highway and Kopaki Road further away from the bridge to allow more visibility for turning traffic.
Completion of the bridge and new approach roads is expected by Autumn 2023 and Matt says the project is a good example of the significant capabilities of Downer that can be brought to any project.
He says the expertise of the Downer team can add considerable value to clients’ projects. Downer has been certified under the ISO44001 collaborative business relationship management systems to help business partners maximise the value of collaborative working.
For example when undertaking the Rotokauri Transport Hub project in North Hamilton the Downer team helped to reduce the cost of the over bridge construction by $100,000, by suggesting a different methodology.
This wasn’t an example of early contractor involvement, rather a chance to improve the project once it had been designed and was ready to commence, but Matt says the sooner Downer is involved the better.
“This allows us the opportunity to add our expertise to the mix to see where improvements might be made with the aim of saving our clients time and money,” he says.
Downer has a full in-house design team who completed the full survey and design for the Pellikan/Dumfries Link Road project in Tokoroa, which the construction team is currently building. It also directly manages the importation of bitumen products for asphalt production through a separate business known as Road Science. This is significant, as the Marsden Refinery is no longer producing bitumen products so these will now have to be imported.
“Our Road Science team is now one of the major importers of bitumen to New Zealand. Imported bitumen has different technical specifications to locally produced product. We test and trial solutions, coming up with the right products to suit our clients’ projects,” explains Matt.
With a main depot in Hamilton and regional depots in Paeroa, Ngāruawāhia and Tīrau, Downer Waikato has the capacity to cover the whole region with its services. All the asphalt is produced at the Hamilton depot where the surfacing, construction and contract team is based. The other regional depots offer offices and equipment for local contracts making for a fast, efficient service.
Creating a strong company culture is at the heart of the new Downer Waikato construction team. One of the main focuses is shared values.
“Across the whole team, there are a lot of honest people,” says Downer construction manager Mark Watkins.
“Everyone is not only highly driven, but they also have high integrity and a high level of emotional intelligence.
“We’re driven to get people into the team who have those character traits. That’s where we see building a diverse group of people with both the skills to apply smart thinking to real-world situations and the emotional strength and empathy needed for challenging situations.”
The team comprises a management team of eight, along with an extensive network of supervisors and project crew across the Waikato.
Mark says that the company’s ethos to support and encourage its people has helped it to attract skilled talent and retain long-term team members. It is this which assists the team to successfully meet the demands of the region and continue to expand the portfolio of delivered works.
“All of our team is passionate about the region’s future. We’re a team that looks out for each other, and because of this, we get great results,” says Mark.
Many of the team are well known in the local community with a large number born and bred in the Waikato.
Mark says that this is important as it provides them with the insight and experience to find the right solutions for local projects.
Mark is a case in point. Putāruru-born he has been part of the Downer family for nearly 15 years, starting with the team as a contract manager before becoming senior operations manager and now construction manager.
He says he enjoys looking for a challenge or problem to solve, which has been the driving force throughout his career – including this new role.
“What I enjoy is the ability to get to the heart of what our clients need and supporting them with real solutions that work.”
Construction supervisor Samuel McHugh echoes Mark’s sentiment, saying the team shares a commitment to provide a straightforward, no-fluff approach to any project.
He says each team member brings their own perspective to a project, thanks to their diverse industry experience. This abundance of skills and creative ideas helps them to solve problems to reach successful solutions for their clients.
“We’re all very practical. If we’re faced with a challenge, we’ll bounce ideas around and together we modify the methodology that will work effectively.”
© Waterford Press Ltd 2021

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