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THERE ARE TWO SEASONS IN HAMILTON – WINTER AND ROADWORKS There was no question that the Hamilton Ring Road project would cause the city’s residents, business owners and commercial vehicle drivers plenty of disruption. As lead contractor, Downer knew that keeping everyone informed about the project was essential. Not only did the company want to let everyone know what was going on and why, it wanted feedback from them too, so it could answer questions and explain what was going to happen next. The core component of Access Hamilton, the City Council’s plan to deliver an integrated transport system for the city, the $60m Ring Road project involves ongoing road closures and diversions with permanent changes to people’s travel routines. The task of communicating with local residents and people travelling through the area was delegated to Brandy Smith, Downer’s Stakeholder Liaison Person for Major Projects in the North. BRANDY SMITH, DOWNER “ ” With a bright idea and social media, a disruptive project has won friends, not enemies “I had to figure out the best way to reach everyone,” Smith says. “Not just people who live here, but also people who travel through Hamilton. A Facebook page seemed the best answer – almost everyone has a Facebook account today.” The first thing she did was to create a page covering every aspect of the project, which was launched in June 2011. Since then the site has attracted more than 2,170 Likes, and has become a melting pot of feedback and comment around the project. Good or bad, everything gets posted. The only comments deleted by Smith are ones featuring offensive language. “Initially, when people were up in arms about the works, the Facebook page was used by people to gripe about the project,” says Smith. ”But they quickly saw that the page was fair, informative and open to all – so it got a lot of people onside quite quickly. It also gave us a chance to explain why we were doing what we were doing. And once people know why, then they start to understand and feel a part of it.” Keeping tabs on the Facebook page is a 24/7 job. Smith updates the page constantly with news and photos of the work’s progress, gives readers a heads-up on road disruptions, and answers any questions placed by followers within minutes of them appearing. Her smart phone is always on. 32 / DOWNER / IN BLACK & WHITE


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