Auckland company Manco Rail has given New Zealand's engineering sector a boost by securing a contract to supply specialised equipment for two 15km rail tunnels being built under Sydney Harbour.
The New South Wales Government, via Sydney Metro Trains, is in the advanced stages of building the north and south tunnels under Sydney Harbour.
Manco rail's excavators, "tugs" and other custom-designed heavy equipment will be used to lay tracks and install overhead wire to help power the trains.
Manco Engineering's sole owner and managing director Bryan Black told the Herald the Sydney tunnel contract was worth tens of millions.
Black says Manco has also won a $7m train maintenance contract, and has also been successful in a tender to supply equipment for a tunnel that will be dug under the Brisbane river.
It's time for engineering to get more credit for its role NZ's economy, Black says.
"There's more to New Zealand than farming and forestry."
He says the new contracts have created 40 jobs - allowing Manco Rail to hire senior engineers jettisoned by Air New Zealand.
Rocket Lab has also taken on ex-Air NZ staff.
And the Sydney deals have secured 300 existing jobs, Black says. About 75 of those are at his own company, with the balance working for various Manco subcontractors on the tunnel deal.
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• Gaminco, a large Tauranga machining company with world-class facilities which does extensive work for John Deere.
• G90 Engineering and Juno Engineering, in Matamata, which supply machine and fabricated parts.
• Piako Engineering in Morrinsville, which supplies fabricated parts.
• 35 other New Zealand companies, mostly locally owned, which supply a range of hydraulics, electronics, and radio-control equipment.
Many of the engineers involved in the 14-month push to custom design equipment for the Sydney rail tunnel project were under 30, Black said, and a number were recent graduates from AUT or the University of Auckland.
But many of the subcontractors they worked for harked back to a different era, the 74-year-old says.
"Many of these companies are third-generation and go back to the days when import licensing and strong apprentice programmes created the level of innovation and initiative that prevails today.
"It is great to see the push for New Zealand-manufactured goods at long last, following Covid."
Manco Rail won the Sydney rail tunnel international tender against Australian and European competitors to supply automated equipment to transport the rail through the two tunnels, lay the sleepers, and then thread the rail onto the sleepers.
All the equipment is radio-remote-controlled, Black says.
The first equipment was shipped to Sydney this morning.
The Manco equipment will be used in two stages. First, it will lay the track components.
Then the track form will be concreted, and mechanical and electrical systems and signalling equipment will be installed.
Afterwards, the Manco track-laying equipment will return, including wheel excavators, trailers, and tugs, to assist with concreting activities, and electrical and mechanical installations.
Black said winning the Australian contract had helped open new business opportunities for Manco in Australia and New Zealand including a new rail tunnel under the Brisbane River, the Auckland City rail loop and the proposed Papakura to Pukekohe extension.