With 30 years in the construction industry and experience at alliance contracting, Duncan Gibb was the ideal person to take up the task of creating the organisation now known as SCIRT (Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team) to deliver the horizontal infrastructure rebuild for Christchurch.
Servicing three major clients across local and central government: Christchurch City Council, NZTA and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), SCIRT will rebuild all of the street-level civic infrastructure in Christchurch consisting of roads, fresh water systems, waste water systems, storm water systems and the required supporting infrastructure for these systems.
"We're about 30 per cent of the way through the rebuild in terms of completed infrastructure work," says Gibb. That work consists of 279 completed projects with a value of $164.3 million.
"We've got about 120 projects on the go at the moment with a value of about $520 million."
Pipes to carry fresh water through the city are the most complete at present with 41km of piping laid and 59 per cent of the damage repaired. Roading is the least progressed, with 243sq km of completed work accounting for 18 per cent of that planned.
"We have a schedule which says that we will complete the infrastructure work in December 2016. It's very hard in a programme like this to have a firm schedule, however, because we still haven't designed the projects for half of the work," explains Gibb.
Currently 179 projects worth $806 million are being designed with a further 39 projects worth $146.6 million in the estimate phase.
"We are on schedule to meet the target which we put in place two years ago. We are maybe a month or two behind right now but we have from now until December 2016 to catch that up and we are confident that we are in the right place."
A major reason SCIRT has been able to progress the infrastructure rebuild at such a fast pace has been the ability to quickly cut through red tape and bureaucratic issues.
"We are a self-assessing department effectively so we have the authority to approve a lot of the stuff that we do," says Gibb.
"We are working closely with CTOC [Christchurch Transport Operations Centre] and NZTA, we collaborate really well with them and we haven't really been held up with a lot of red tape."
Progress is just starting to be made on the central city portion of the rebuild now that the cordons have come down. Collaboration with Christchurch Central Development Unit and Cera is taking place with a particular focus on the anchor projects.
"We need to work with them to create a work programme and schedule which enables us to get our infrastructure in ahead of those anchor projects, because we need to install the infrastructure so that they are able to build on top of it," explains Gibb.
To progress at the rate required to make sure the rebuild as a whole remains on target, 40 separate crews will be working in the central city by October to make sure the infrastructure portion is progressing quickly enough.
The downside of that, explains Gibb, is that an increasing number of people are going to be impacted as the work ramps up.
To counter that, SCIRT has placed a major focus on communication with the general public so that they remain informed throughout the process. Over 10,000 in-person interactions have taken place coupled with 1623 work notices distributed to more than 400,000 residents.
"When you get people actually understanding what you're doing, buying into it and supporting you, that is really useful.
"The fact of the matter is that for our team, the people of Christchurch are at the heart of the rebuild.
"We're rebuilding this infrastructure so they can get their life back to normal."
The response to SCIRT's commitment to keeping residents informed has been extremely positive says Gibb, with the results of a recent external survey showing that 83 per cent of residents are satisfied with how SCIRT are communicating with them.
"We're probably well into the honeymoon period and I'm sure that people are going to get sick of us shortly. We've just got to keep doing what we're doing and bring them along with us on the journey."
SCIRT is a purpose-built organisation that was put together from the ground up, beginning in May 2011. Gibb was brought in as the first employee, moving across from Queensland where he was General Manager for Fulton Hogan.
"We had four months to create an organisation that was to turn over between $500 and $600 million worth of work every year.
"We started from scratch in terms of organisational structure and systems and processes."
When Gibb was brought on as the first employee of SCIRT, only the board was in place with a broad scope of what needed to be completed. SCIRT's members are: Fulton Hogan, Fletcher Construction, McConnell Dowell, Downer and City Care.
"Those companies had already been through a fairly robust series of commercial conversations and got to the point of realisation that this is a fairly important project for the country.
"There was a need to set aside organisational egos for the betterment of Christchurch and New Zealand as a whole."
SCIRT uses alliance contracting, bringing together multiple construction companies to work in sync under the same banner.
Similar arrangements are used by NZTA on other major projects including the Northern Gateway Toll Road and the Waterview Connection.
"It is a really good form of commercial arrangement with the uncertainty of scope, high amounts of risk and the need to move very quickly," says Gibb.
"This was ideal in a scenario whereby the clients didn't have the resources or expertise to manage something of this magnitude and no single contractor that could do the entire job."
The alliance is a commercial arrangement, which brings the parties together and aligns them with a common goal. Financial risks and rewards are shared among all of the partner companies.
"The arrangement incentivises collaboration and rewards people doing well," says Gibb. "It makes sure that you don't have a win-lose scenario, everyone either wins and does well out of it or everyone loses and does badly out of it. It ensures that you don't have different drivers across the organisations."
The separate companies have come together and put their traditional rivalries aside to prioritise the Christchurch project.
The key to success has been getting people to buy into the message with the vision for SCIRT summed up by its slogan, "Creating resilient infrastructure that gives people security and confidence in the future of Christchurch".
"It's about buying people into the fact that they're going to rebuild the foundations of the city. If we don't do that quickly and if we don't do it well, we are going to leave a legacy of a not solid foundation.
"It's proved to a powerful message and motivator and some really fascinating behaviour is coming out of this commitment.
"I've never seen a team that has been put together so quickly before to take on a job of this magnitude and I don't think the outcomes could have been achieved any other way."
The success of SCIRT and the unique organisational structure that has been used to complete the work should serve as a model to address similar situations both in New Zealand and abroad.
"We are working on packaging up the integrated management system and process we've used because a lot of the work we've done is quite transferable.
"We want this to be available so if there's a significant shake in Wellington for example, this could be used as a model so they can get stuck in and save a significant amount of time."
Duncan Gibb - in his own words
I bought a house here. I live here. My wife's a Kiwi. I might be an Aussie but her dad was from Christchurch. You talk to just about anyone here and they have a story which links them to Christchurch. Everyone wants to do the right thing for them. Then when you put that into the context of actually paying for this and they say, 'Well, the Government's paying for this" and I say to them, "Well, where does the Government funding come from? Well, it comes from taxes and rates so guess what, you're paying for it. And if you're paying for it, are you going to do a shoddy job or are you going to do a good job? Well, heck if I'm paying for it I'm going to do a good job. Great, you're doing that job for you and you're paying for it so get on with it.' It's a really fantastic motivator.
It is a challenging role - starting up a fresh organisation from scratch. We are going to spend $570 million this financial year, we are already spending $40-$50 million every month, it is a challenge to do that. But the bigger challenge is to do that in a way that demonstrates you're delivering a value product. So we are measuring a lot of our outputs and benchmarking that against international best practice where we can, or if we can't find a benchmark against that we look at what else is happening around Australia and New Zealand. We are doing pretty well, I'm stoked.
This is the best job I've ever had or been on, and it's delivering some really fantastic outcomes. There are some big challenges, ultimately we are impacting just about everybody in the city - we are either working in their road or their street or they're having to drive through our sites across the city. Some 75 per cent of the broader people - this is random people phoned up and asked about how SCIRT are doing - say that SCIRT is doing a good job and communicating with them well and managing traffic and stuff like that. When the people you are doing your work for and impacting on are supporting you like that, it is really quite humbling and very pleasing obviously.