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To most people, the sight of 10 burly engineering and construction workers sitting in kayaks on an idyllic stretch of the Avon River, gazing intently at stones from the river bed, would be little more than an incongruous footnote to the day. To David Maucor, it was a breakthrough moment in his job as Downer’s Environmental Co-ordinator for the Christchurch rebuild. “A lot of the guys had tended to laugh off concerns for protecting the river’s trout spawning grounds as a bit of ‘greenie nonsense’ – but there they were, getting totally involved. It was no longer just environmental theory to them but something very real,” says Maucor. “Altogether, 180 members of staff, from all of Downer’s various teams, went through the programme – and the result has been an important shift in attitude towards a lot of the things we incorporate into our projects here.” No longer is much of the on-site preparatory work for Downer’s various projects seen as just a time-consuming nuisance that gets in the way of the ‘real’ work, it is accepted – welcomed, even – as a way of doing things better. A great advocate of learning-by-doing, Maucor was inspired to develop those Enviro-Kayak sessions (as he calls them) by an idea he had seen previously, in a different context. And being able to turn the idea into a practical – and highly effective – solution, he says, is what he appreciates most about the SCIRT project as a whole, and his own role in it. “The mentality here is that we are all in a completely new situation, confronted with this huge and complex task, so anything that someone suggests is worth looking at. Almost every day we’re creating new ways of working – it’s incredibly dynamic – and everyone involved, whether inside Downer, across the Alliance or even in public organisations such as the Student Army, is able to feed off each other’s ideas,” he enthuses. It could hardly be more different from Maucor’s native France, where he worked as an environmental scientist, with a particular interest in ecology. There, he notes, roles and ranks are highly defined, with ideas passing through a strict hierarchy. Having arrived in New Zealand just before the earthquake (the son of a French father and New Zealand mother, he was on a kind of reverse OE), he joined Downer in April 2012. “I could sense the urgency, the huge need for skills,” he recalls. “For me, it was a great opportunity to contribute – to apply all of my theoretical knowledge in a direct, practical way.” The issue, he says, was not so much the environmental damage caused by the earthquake itself, but the need to DOWNER / IN BLACK & WHITE / 47


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