New infrastructure GM at Fletcher Construction sees a bright future for the industry as the government creates a pipeline of nation-building projects.
Fletcher Construction is determined to remain at the forefront of major infrastructure developments in New Zealand by perfecting the art of collaborative contracting.
Fletcher's new general manager infrastructure Tommy Parker is in the enviable position of seeing both sides of the story after "jumping the fence" from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).
He has moved from being the client to the contractor and is quickly understanding the issues and pressures of both parties. There have been misunderstandings in the past — on both sides — and improved collaboration is critical to delivering the best infrastructure outcomes for New Zealanders," he says.
"By working together and finding solutions, we can offer a sustainable and prosperous industry," Parker says. "The Government's commitment to infrastructure and nation building also gives me a lot of confidence in growing the industry.
"New Zealand can be world famous for its collaborative contracting, and I want Fletcher to be the leading contractor in large, complex infrastructure projects.
"We are keen to see how the long-term pipeline of work settles down and when the contracts come to the market — and we will prepare and make sure we have strong teams with the right skills in place."
Parker says good infrastructure, particularly transport, is the backbone of a strong society. Across the world, countries are striving to fill the infrastructure deficit, and are using new and innovative ways of funding, planning, building, maintaining and operating transport systems.
"My goal is to be an influential leader in meeting this challenge," he says.
British-born Parker, who has a Masters in Transportation Planning and Engineering, spent 14 years with NZTA and its predecessor Transit New Zealand before taking up his role at Fletcher in April this year.
He was General Manager System Design and Delivery, Group Manager Highways Networks and Operations, and State Highway Manager for Auckland and Northland at NZTA.
After the Kaikoura earthquake, Parker became chairman of the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance to rebuild the severed road and rail connections. Fletcher is a partner in that rebuilding.
While he was at NZTA, Parker led the Waterview alliance project through evaluation, consenting and delivery for New Zealand's largest transport project — the 2.4km road tunnel that connected Auckland's Western Ring route.
He believes infrastructure alliances are the way of the future. "We can mix latest technology and best practices from overseas with the local knowledge and expertise.
"I'm impressed and inspired with the level of professionalism and enthusiasm shown by our teams on the ground completing projects such as the Hamilton bypass and Kaikoura rebuild. In the middle of winter, they are starting in the fog at 6am on terrain where the geotechnical and engineering work is not easy.
"The New Zealand taxpayer does get good value for money from the industry as a whole," says Parker. "The challenge now is to adapt to the changing political agenda and new technology that provides a lot of opportunities.
"We want to be a strong partner and get the right balance of international best practice and local expertise."
Parker cites the Waterview Connection as an exemplar for alliance projects. "Fletcher had the local knowledge and the Japanese (Obayashi Corp) provided the tunnelling smarts. For the country's contracting industry, Waterview signalled a change in gear in terms of project delivery.
"We hadn't built a big tunnel like that before. We geared up and the industry responded. It demonstrated what New Zealanders can achieve — delivering a complex and challenging infrastructure that met the highest world-class standards."
Fletcher has partnered with Spanish company Acciona Infrastructure to build the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway, due to be completed in late 2021.
"We are learning a lot from Acciona, mainly around systems thinking. It's proving to be a good joint venture — the culture is great. We do have a shortage of engineers in this country but a few good thinkers from Madrid adds to the mix," says Parker.
He believes Fletcher has the resources to overcome any skilled labour shortages.
"That's why we need to see a long-term pipeline of projects and a strong procurement process. That can make a big difference to the success of a project. We can all work together — consultants, clients and contractors — and put the right teams and skills in place.
"We will continue to compete for the best skills globally, but we also need to focus on local training and upskilling especially for field operatives and engineers.
"As we see the work come to the market, we can ramp up with a combination of overseas recruitment and locally trained staff, he says.
"The Kirkbride work is coming to an end and we will have workers to relocate on to other projects."
The Manukau Harbour Kirkbride project (MHX Kirkbride), an alliance between NZTA, Fletcher, Beca Infrastructure and Higgins, is due to be completed this month. It is the main road to Auckland Airport and includes a new Kirkbride Rd interchange and intersection at Landing Drive.
Fletcher is also turning its attention to water infrastructure. Parker says Fletcher will next month bid to construct the $1 billion Central Interceptor with the same team that built the Waterview Tunnel. It is a construct-only model with Watercare having completed the design.
The Central Interceptor wastewater tunnel will run 13km from Western Springs to the Mangere treatment plant, at times going 110m underground and about 15m below the seabed across the Manukau Harbour.
Fletcher recently attended a briefing for the latest rapid transit plan in Auckland, and Parker says: "We will be following this project with interest."
The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), led by NZTA, will provide light rail between the city centre and the airport, and to the northwest suburbs within the next 10 years.
"I'm really enjoying the new role," says Parker. "It's been a big learning curve and having been the client and now the contractor I can see there is a need for strong collaboration."
Fletcher Construction CEO Michele Kernahan at the Puhoi to Warkworth site.
Fletcher Construction's current major projects are:
● Puhoi to Warkworth Motorway. Extending four-lane Northern motorway (SH1) 18.5km from Johnstone's Hill tunnels to just north of Warkworth — including a large flyover. Five years to build, to be completed in late 2021. Worth $709.5m, it is New Zealand's second Public Private Partnership contract for a state highway. The Northern Express Group comprising ACC, Morrison & Co PIP, Fletcher and Acciona Concesiones S.L. will construct, manage and maintain the motorway for 25 years.
● Hamilton Section, Waikato Expressway. Largest roading project in the Waikato, 21.8km section of the expressway running from Ngaruawahia in the north, east of Hamilton to the Tamahere interchange in the south. Includes 17 bridges, five new interchanges, walking and cycling paths, and requires 28,450 cubic metres of concrete, 212km of road markings,126km of fencing and 1.3m tonnes of aggregate. Finished in 2020 at a cost of $637m by an alliance comprising Fletcher, Beca, Higgins, Coffey, Hicks Bros and NZTA. Completes the 102km expressway from Auckland's Southern Motorway to south of Cambridge and will cut 35 minutes of travel time from Auckland to Tirau.
● Peka Peka to Otaki Expressway. Constructing 13km four-lane expressway from Mackays Crossing and bypassing Otaki. Forms part of the Wellington Northern Corridor running between Levin and Wellington Airport. To be completed in 2020 at a cost of $330m.
● MHX Kirkbride. Upgrading SH20a route to and from Auckland Airport, including new motorway interchange at Kirkbride Rd intersection and Landing Drive roundabout with an eight-lane intersection and traffic lights. Completed this month at a cost of $160m by an alliance comprising NZTA, Fletcher, Beca and Higgins.
● North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR). An alliance that includes Fletcher-owned Higgins and Brian Perry Civil (120 people) is restoring and upgrading the main road and rail networks following the November 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.