Work ethic plus sustainable practices lead to Connell Contractor’s win

Work in progress

The year 2023 has proven to be another year of excellence for Hamilton’s Connell Contractors who were announced winners of the $1m to $5m project category at the Waikato CCNZ Awards, for their work on the complex and challenging Poutu Intake and Tunnel Repair project.

The company was also awarded the Health and Safety award, along with the overall Supreme Award, and went on to win the CCNZ Hirepool Construction Excellence Awards’ Category 2 Projects between $2m and $5m at the National CCNZ Conference for the Poutu project. The Hirepool Construction Excellence Awards represent the pinnacle achievement of New Zealand’s civil construction industry.

Connell Contractors CEO Lester Foxall says the Poutu project was selected for entry into the regional CCNZ awards because Connell successfully delivered the work in a high-risk environment working inside the tunnels in a confined space within a short timeframe while protecting the river and managing complex craneage.

“It contained all the elements of high risk and complexity including working at heights, environmental challenges, maintaining public access, meeting timeframes during outages and unforeseen challenges in the tunnels.”

Genesis Energy’s Poutu intake is a riverbed water diversion structure in the Tongariro Hydro Scheme, approximately seventeen kilometres south of Turangi. The intake abstracts a portion of the flow from the Tongariro River through low-level intake screens of four intake bays, then passes through a series of channels and chambers to the Poutu Tunnel and canal downstream.

An inspection conducted in 2021 revealed several structures within the intake and tunnel had suffered significant erosion damage through the continued passage of river gravels, sediment and rock.

“This structure is vital to the hydro generation capability in the region,” explains Lester. “It diverts the water to Tokaanu Power Station and contributes water to the extensive Waikato hydropower scheme. It also plays a role in controlling the levels of the Tongariro River, which is considered to be one of the world’s top fishing spots.”

Genesis Energy engaged Connell Contractors to undertake the repair works over a six-week outage. The scope of work included repair and protection work on four intake bays and tunnel invert repairs across 2.74 kilometres of tunnel with a 2.5-metre radius.

At the Awards presentation ceremony, I mentioned that if ‘you’re good enough you’re old enough,’ to emphasise that we invest and commit to young people.

“Our team demonstrated agility and innovation throughout the project with frequent changes in our methodology to address the multiple challenges, including swiftly engineering coffer dams to protect the river and isolate work areas. We upskilled our team in specialist skills to undertake the work packages and completed the work on time, including extra scope.”

“Throughout the project, we worked collaboratively with Genesis and other project stakeholders. The project’s success reflects Connell’s firm commitment to Genesis that the project would be delivered safely, within the outage period and within budget. Two letters were received from Genesis commending us for our great effort in delivering this project.”

Lester says that extensive planning, long working hours — including national holidays — and the ability to produce real-time solutions with Genesis made for a successful project outcome.

“Good old-fashioned values, work ethic and collaboration summarise the success of this project. The average age of our project team was twenty-eight years old, so this was a huge achievement and confidence booster for the individual members. The impact on the wider team including management was immeasurable and reinforced our values as a business and our excellent culture.”

“It is hugely important for the company and employees to enter these awards and it allows us to showcase our skills and capability in delivering complex projects for our clients. It’s equally important for our teams to have the support of the Directors and Shareholders in entering these awards.”

“It reinforces our trust in the teams, their responsibility to work with our clients and that we respect their judgment in making key decisions. We appreciate their hard work and passion in meeting the key imperatives.”

Lester points out that the Project Engineer/Manager was 24-year-old Matthew Dean and says Poutu was a huge undertaking for someone so young, reinforcing Connell’s commitment to training. “At the Awards presentation ceremony, I mentioned that if ‘you’re good enough you’re old enough,’ to emphasise that we invest and commit to young people.”

Connell Contractors routes go back to 1985 when it was founded as a drainage contractor by Dave and Margo Connell and their family.

© Waterford Press Ltd 2023 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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