Auckland-headquartered advisory, design and engineering consultancy Beca has appointed a new chief executive, and she’s the first woman and the first non-engineer to take on the role.
Geographer and planner Amelia Linzey will run Beca from October 1, taking over from Greg Lowe.
“In the 102 years we’ve been going, we don’t make leadership changes very often, but when we do, we plan for succession,” says Linzey. “A lot of the work we do here is about infrastructure and community change and we’re in a great position with a decarbonisation drive to transform the worlds we touch.”
Linzey is a director of Beca Group and Beca NZ, and will join the Australia and Asia boards. She is currently advisory group director, chief planner and chair of the sustainability steering group.
Linzey is also a member of the alliance team working for Waka Kotahi developing a business case for Auckland’s second harbour crossing, “and we frame that as additional transport because it’s about all the needs of the future, which includes public and private transport as well as freight. The long-term goal is how we can provide for that in a way that supports the city and all modes of transport. The team has been working hard to do that and we hope to provide an integrated transport system with all the different transport needs catered for.”
Linzey has worked at the employee-owned business for 25 years in many different areas and will be the eighth chief executive since the company was established in 1920.
She has worked for Beca here and in Samoa, Belize and the Pacific for private and government businesses.
In her current role, she oversees more than 700 professional project managers, sustainability and environmental scientists, management consultants, advisers, risk and climate advisers, planners, architects and urban designers in this country and in Australia.
She has a Master of Science with first-class honours from Auckland University, where she has been a guest lecturer in geography.
Linzey is a member of the alliance board on the second Waitematā Harbour crossing and a non-owner participant member, providing financial, legal, commercial and outcome oversight for that project.
Asked about biking and walking across the harbour, she says: “active modes like this and micro-mobility with scooters will be really important parts of how people get around the city and those must all be catered for. It’s essential all those modes of transport are provided for across the harbour.”
She has been working on that second harbour crossing for the past two years.
Asked how any crossing and light rail might be built in Auckland, and whether that might be through a public-private partnership or an alliance, she says procurement for such large projects is a key to their success: “There are different reasons for different models. In both projects, there are a number of smaller projects within them. They’re both big and complex projects. How you procure and sequence delivery, all the different ways of procurement will be needed. How it gets delivered — you might see part public-private and part alliance. Different contractors will be used for different types of work.”
But she does note that more alliances are being used on big projects like the City Rail Link, which is not a PPP, “and there are big advantages to that alliance procurement method. They enable all the participants to work collaboratively, so if you’ve got uncertainty in terms of outcomes, I think alliances are a very good model and have been successful. PPPs are better when you have more certainty about what you want to deliver.”
Many of the projects are large-scale, needing a lot of capital investment, she says. It is critical to get the right procurement methods.
Asked about the National Party’s plan for a new infrastructure agency, she says New Zealand already has a national view of what infrastructure is needed via Te Wāhanga the Infrastructure Commission.
“Some consistency and certainty would be great for the industries that work in that area, and great for communities. There’s a progression of how we’re developing that but Te Wāhanga the Infrastructure Commission has been building long-term thinking already.”
Linzey worked on the $5.5b City Rail Link, involved in the early planning approval stages, “getting the designation which is the approval from Auckland Council to enable the owner to buy land. When we did the Waterview Tunnels, we bought the land from the ground down to the centre of the earth but we were able to allow the land above to still be used — in that case for residential, and in CRL’s case for commercial activities”.
Beca has about 3800 employees in 23 offices — 12 in New Zealand and also in Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar.
Asked about the largest project she has been involved in, Linzey says it’s the CRL.
“But for me personally, I was involved in Waterview for about 10 years so that was the longest I worked on one single project. We’re very proud of that, including connections and bridges, particularly for cycling.” She worked as a planner on Waterview from about 2002 until 2012.
“That was the first project to go to a board of inquiry to designate it a project of national significance. I took the commissioners and a judge who were on that board of inquiry through the project when it was finished. We did a walk-around as a study team to reflect on how the process had worked. One of the things I’m proud of is that the project looked very much like the plans. It is a big project and it was certainly a big change for that community and all of Auckland.”
Beca’s world headquarters is now in Pitt St, in downtown Auckland, but the business has leased Wynyard Quarter offices which are now under construction by Precinct Properties, and where it plans to move in early 2025.
Lowe announced last year that about 1400 people working for Beca in Auckland would move from the Pitt St building to floors spanning interconnected new buildings at 124 Halsey St and the neighbouring 117 Pakenham St.
Linzey says she is delighted at the prospect of moving. “We’re really looking at the sustainability outcomes of that new building. That represents what we at Beca want to represent. Many of the staff will be able to able to cycle to work and put their bikes within the building. Others will be able to use the busway and ferries. The new premises are far more accessible for so many of the staff compared to where we are now.”
The Pitt St premises have an auditorium which can accommodate 180 people and Linzey says that has been extremely useful for Beca.
“We use it for staff but it also meant we could host conversations we thought were important for the city or the nation, on aspects like big infrastructure projects, as well as for Property Council events, Infrastructure NZ, the Planning Institute and the Association of Consulting and Engineering NZ.”
Construction of the firm’s two new buildings is under way, with Hawkins Construction on the job.
What happens to the Pitt St building when Beca leaves is uncertain. In 2012, the Herald reported that Christchurch landlord and earthquake-hit investor Miles Middleton paid $55 million for the ex-Vodafone, ex-Auckland Regional Council headquarters.
Middleton took insurance proceeds from Christchurch buildings and poured them into the high-profile commercial investment, buying Beca House at 21 Pitt St.
Linzey says she will be the first non-engineer to become a CEO at Beca as well as the first woman. Out of all the countries where Beca works, New Zealand is now growing the fastest in terms of revenue and staff numbers.
“One of the legacies I plan to leave is to have a more significant footprint in Australia, where we’ve been for more than 50 years. This will be the decade to get that expansion because of economic growth in that country and transformation in infrastructure and communities which is planned in Australia. Growth is now fastest in Sydney.”
Role: From October 1, CEO of Beca
Born: In Australia, moved here aged 7
Parents: Mike Linzey, retired Auckland University architecture lecturer, mother Mary, former Takapuna Grammar teacher
Education: Stanley Bay School, Westlake Girls High School, Auckland University
Lives: In Pukekohe. Usually takes the train to work, then walks from Newmarket or gets on a link bus
Family: Married to Cameron Smith with three children aged 20, 18 and 14
Now reading: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
Last watched: Legion TV series based on Marvel Comics
Last holiday: Canoe trip on the Whanganui River with family members last spring
Drives: Plug-in electric BYD ATTO 3, does about 470km on one charge, “so it gets me to work and back four times”
Anne Gibson has been the Herald’s property editor for 23 years, has won many awards, written books and covered property extensively here and overseas.