Firm bidding to build dam happy with data

By Lawrence Gullery

The two companies competing for the bid to build the Ruataniwha water storage dam have made their first appearances in public ahead of the decision to select the winning contractor in October for the $230 million project.

Leading European contractor, Obrascon Huarte Lain (OHL) and Hawkins Infrastructure, New Zealand's largest privately-owned construction company, joined forces to bid for the design and construction phase of the water storage scheme in Central Hawke's Bay.

France-based contractor Bouygues Construction is the competing bidder. The company operated globally on large infrastructure projects, including dams and has a subsidiary based in Australia. It had partnered with the Napier branch of Opus International Consultants and MWH.

Project manager Santiago Carmona is likely to be appointed construction manager if the OHL Hawkins bid was successful. He was among several experts from the OHL Hawkins team to inspect the site last week and said he was happy with the data he collected.

"At the moment we are trying to test all the materials in the river and confirm all the data so it meets the feasibility study. We need to know where the materials come from, the availability and the quality.

"We have built various water storage structures around the world and often we have had to divert the river flow. The Makaroro River (where the dam was proposed) doesn't have to be moved, which makes it easier to manage."

Mr Carmona managed the construction of four large dams in Spain and South America and was excited about the prospect of relocating his family to Hawke's Bay to lead the project.

OHL was working with GHD, an international civil engineering consultant, to do the design work and will provide the Hawke's Bay Regional Council with detailed costings and information about the overall viability of the scheme.

Bouygues representatives presented to the regional council's Maori Committee recently, specifically looking at the employment opportunities if it was selected as the winning bidder.

Committee chairman Mike Mohi said the company made a commitment to use local labour where it could on the project.

"Building the dam is going to take about three-and-a-half years and outlying the infrastructure will be spread over time, maybe double or triple the time it takes to build the dam."

Mr Mohi said Bouygues indicated it would employ about 300 to 350 people. Between 30 to 40 of those would be the company's "experts from overseas" as well as consultants from Opus.

"The real numbers of people who could be employed or involved in the dam don't come so much from its construction but from its expansion and ongoing infrastructure work, and its benefits for farms processing which can create smaller business opportunities."

Mr Mohi was also involved in Nga Whenua Rahui, a ministerial funded committee, which was looking to train people through EIT Hawke's Bay to work on an ecological mitigation plan for the dam.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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