One of the highlights of Gavin Frost's two decades in the Bay of Plenty has been his commitment to the development of young people.

This help has been on the sports field, providing career insights to students, and working with young graduates at professional services consultancy Beca, where he is regional manager.

Mr Frost grew up in Auckland and attended De La Salle College. As a child he loved helping his father build things, and as a teenager saw engineering as an ideal profession to combine an aptitude for maths and physics with his interest in construction.

After graduating from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Engineering in civil engineering, he joined Beca as a graduate and has remained ever since with a firm that has provided an evolving range of opportunities.


The first came two years after he joined the firm when he was posted to Melbourne in 1989 to join a small office there with about 20 staff. He spent five years in Australia, working on major construction projects in Adelaide, Sydney and Jakarta, Indonesia, from the Melbourne base, including major cool store builds.

Mr Frost credited a more senior colleague, Rhys Davies, with helping him learn the ropes.

"He taught me the importance of seeing both the client and the contractor perspective, so together we could build something our client would be proud of," he said.

One of his more challenging projects as a young structural engineer came when he was working in Australia for Beca. Mr Frost managed the demolition and reconstruction of a large cold store/freezer in Sydney which had burned down. The project had a high local profile as the debris included a massive quantity of charred and pungent shrimps.

"It was a very interesting project because of the safety challenges associated with the demolition and rebuild in difficult conditions within an operating facility," he said. "It was hugely valuable as a young engineer in terms of the experience I gained working closely with contractors and our client." By the time he left Australia, the Melbourne office staff had grown to 150, but he opted for a move to the Bay of Plenty rather than returning to Auckland. On moving to Tauranga in 1994, he again found himself in a relatively small 20-person office. The Bay of Plenty team has now grown to 170 staff.

"It's been satisfying to have seen a lot of growth in the offices where I've worked," he said. "It's been exciting as we add new services to the team, seeing them develop and the positive impact it has on our clients."

The Beca Tauranga office last year celebrated 35 years in the Bay of Plenty. In the early days, most of Beca's regional work focused on public works such as water treatment plants, then as the office grew through the 1990s the firm took on a lot of heavy industrial work, including projects such as the pulp and paper mills at Kawerau. The office has since significantly diversified its offering, including adding architects, project managers and a buildings services team to meet the needs of clients such as the Bay of Plenty District Health Board.

Mr Frost said a career highlight had been helping the civil defence team after the Lyttleton earthquake.


"It was an eye opener," he said. "There was a real difference in the ways people responded to the same set of circumstances. You had some people very stressed about very small things, while others -- whose houses were falling down around their ears -- were quite relaxed and more worried about their neighbour next door."

After working as a structural engineer and project manager for Beca in the Bay of Plenty for 18 years, Mr Frost was appointed regional manager in 2012.

Beca managing director Don Lyon described Mr Frost as having a very good handle on all the different parts of the firm's business in the region.

"It's a diverse, complex business so his ability to get over it is pretty special," said Mr Lyon.

"Particularly as a regional manager it's really critical that he gets to know a client's business keeps, in touch with them and really understands them, and I think he does that really well."

Mr Frost was also a humble people person who had built a strong team.

"Gavin doesn't mind getting his hands dirty and he gets in there and helps, whether it's a client or a project or a staff issue. He's not one of those leaders who's way out in front with the team trying to catch up with him -- he leads by example."

Mr Frost said while the firm was focused on building and maintaining clients' assets, much of what it did was about people and the importance of a team approach.

"With such a diverse team I try to stay across all that our teams are doing, and the way we are delivering to our clients, to make sure that we are delivering in a cohesive way," he said.

"For me, management is all about getting the most that we can from the people we have and that's really about giving them as much opportunity as possible so they can be the best that they can. In turn this delivers real benefits to our clients. The sky's the limit for our people."

Mr Frost is on the executive committee of Export NZ-Bay of Plenty. He is also the engineering representative on the steering committee for Priority One's Instep programme, which helps local students with their career choices and to be aware of local business opportunities.

The economic agency's strategic projects manager, Greg Simmonds, noted Mr Frost's willingness to be involved in the community outside his Beca responsibilities, and his interest in advising students of the opportunities in the Tauranga marketplace.

"He's a very good leader and excellent at pulling people from different sectors to work together," said Mr Simmonds.

Managers have stake

Beca - which has its headquarters in Auckland - is one of the largest employee-owned professional services consultancies in the Asia Pacific, with a substantial footprint of about 3000 employees in 17 offices across the world. Beca first opened an office in Australia over 40 years ago and in 1977 opened an Asian hub in Singapore.

Regional manager Gavin Frost said one of the secrets to the firm's success was a corporate structure in which senior managers had a stake in the firm, which was sold down near retirement to allow younger managers to participate.

Beca managing director Don Lyon said about one-third of the staff were both active in and owners of the business.

"We believe that's a key influencer over our culture and our can-do attitude and you can see that in our Tauranga office," he said.

"As a whole, it's a dynamic place of people who want to make a difference and they get the benefit of that as owners."

Logical choices

Gavin Frost and his family live in Whakamarama - in part to satisfy the love of horse riding his wife Carolyn and two daughters Kerry (13) and Zoe (10) have.

One of his passions is football, as it is for his son Dylan (15). A keen player himself, he is involved in the Otumoetai Football Club as Otumoetai College co-ordinator, with 12 teams organised this year.

He also project managed the OFC's $1 million Ferguson Park redevelopment.

OFC president Richard Kluit described Mr Frost as level-headed.

"Gavin's a good thinker," he said. "He doesn't make any rash decisions, but is very logical. There were never any surprises with our development project."

Mr Frost is a keen sailor with harbour races and summer holidays on his Young 10-34 sailboat. He and Dylan are also motorbike enthusiasts and take an annual road trip around the Coromandel culminating in watching the Paeroa Street Races.

Gavin Frost

Role - Regional Manager, Tauranga for Beca

Born - Auckland, New Zealand

Age - 49

First job - Graduate structural engineer