The Australian expert headhunted to oversee the $2 billion rebuild of earthquake-battered road and rail around Kaikoura is leaving the role just months into the job.
Duncan Gibb was hand-picked after the November 14 quake to lead the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) alliance - the group comprising NZTA, KiwiRail, Fulton Hogan, Downer, Higgins and HEB Construction to oversee the unprecedented repairs to State Highway 1 and the rail line north and south of Kaikoura.
Gibb, who led Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT) after the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, left a top job with Fulton Hogan in Australia late last year to come back to New Zealand.
But just months into the massive rebuild task, which authorities want completed by the end of this year, the Herald can reveal that Gibb will finish up with NCTIR at the end of the month.
NZTA earthquake recovery manager Steve Mutton confirmed the move, which he says was always part of a transition plan.
"When we first approached Duncan, it was the intention he would come over for this start-up phase and it was always communicated that around this time there would be a transition to a New Zealand-based construction manager who would take over this next challenging phase of getting the road and rail open," Mutton said.
David Loe, former NCTIR operations manager, will now take over the project.
Loe has a strong knowledge of the New Zealand industry and "strong relationships with all the alliance partners making him ideally suited to bring in the skills and ideas to take the Alliance to the next level", Tommy Parker, chair of the NCTIR Board, said.
"He will be working closely with the board to identify ways of accelerating the work."
Both Mutton and Parker praised Gibb for his "fantastic job" in establishing NCTIR and guiding it through the immediate recovery and establishment phases.
"The board of NCTIR are now looking forward to the next phase of the journey and seeking to support the project team to address the challenges ahead," Parker said.
"The board is committed to further lifting the performance and innovation of the alliance and bringing in more resources.
"All the alliance partners are totally committed to the success of the project and confident we can build on the excellent start the team has made.
"We would like to thank Duncan for his contribution and wish him all the best for the future."
The news comes as the NZTA announced that Compass Group has been awarded the catering contract for the multi-million dollar temporary village being built in Kaikoura to house the road and rail rebuild workers.
Seventy five prefabricated units have been shipped over from Australia to form the basis of the village at corner Mt Fyffe and Ludstone Rds that will house more than 300 workers frantically trying to have the critical Kaikoura coastal route opened by the end of the year.
It will take 105 truckloads from Lyttelton, via the Inland Rd through quake-battered Waiau, before it's expected it will take a month for them to be assembled.
Each of the 75 units will have four self-contained bedrooms with ensuites.
There will also be recreational facilities, including a dining hall, laundry, gymnasium. Cooking facilities will be on site for workers to use if required.
Mutton says Compass Group's track record of delivering large-scale facilities and willingness to work locally with Kaikoura businesses and suppliers made them "the obvious choice to deliver this crucial part of the Kaikoura recovery".
"Compass is ensuring that good, competitive commercial arrangements have been made with local Kaikoura businesses and suppliers so local people will benefit from this the most," Mutton said.
"They are working with local businesses and the Kaikoura District Council to fill food, transport, cleaning and management services for the workers village."
The village will employ around 21 local staff to cook breakfast, clean and run the facility, as well as local suppliers to provide transport to and from the sites and provide lunches and dinners, Mutton said.
The price of the contract is not known, with the NZTA saying it's "commercially sensitive".
Compass Group is one of the world's biggest catering companies, and supplies nearly half of all public hospital meals in New Zealand.
Last year, hundreds of people protested outside Dunedin Hospital after Southern District Health Board began outsourcing hospital meals through Compass Group.
Patients called the food "slop", prompting a stream of complaints, and the doctors' association threatened to sue the SDHB over the food quality.
And in March this year, Canterbury District Health Board announced it will not renew its contract with Compass Group, which had provided meals since 2004.
Compass also holds a catering contract with the New Zealand Defence Force.
Compass has been approached for comment.