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and not very efficient; sheet piles are good but very expensive.” Clearly, a creative solution was called for – and the lateral thinking that has become so characteristic of SCIRT provided it, in the form of a flood barrier system invented in Sweden for use in emergency relief – and spotted by a local contractor at the Canterbury Showgrounds. Quickly installed, cost-effective and readily re-usable, the systems create dry working environments, as well as safely sealing all waste, slurry and silt away from the water. This system, says Maucor, will become standard for all similar projects. And therein lies another huge benefit of that ‘SCIRT mentality’, as Maucor explains. “One of the ambitions of SCIRT is to create new ways of working – establish new benchmarks. The environmental issues we’ve been forcefully confronted with in Christchurch have never been faced before in New Zealand, so we are finding new solutions at every level. And that is filtering back up to our central organisations. People will have to work in rivers for ever; now they will use this system.” While the word ‘environment’ automatically means ‘ecology’ or ‘green’ to most of us, Maucor’s role at Downer embraces far more than the preservation of nature: the living environment of Christchurch residents is hugely important. Solving the problems of reconstruction can create a layer of new problems, he acknowledges – for example, the 24/7 noise from the generators needed for de-watering. This, too, falls squarely in Maucor’s court. “One of our site guys suggested putting rubber mats under the generators to reduce vibration – an idea he had seen on another job. Coupled with sound barriers, such as hay bales, and insulated boxes over the pumps it has made a tremendous difference, so it has become standard practice.” Such solutions are working their way up the project chain – one example being that decisions about the positioning of pumps and generators are now being made at the design phase, on the basis that the easiest place may not be the best place. “All battles are won and lost in the planning and design; that’s where you can eliminate or isolate the problem. And then you leave the contractors with the job of minimising any residual impact, not trying to solve the fundamental problem – which is beyond their power anyway.” Possibly the only predictable thing about the rebuilding of Christchurch is that it will continue to throw up unprecedented challenges that need urgent solutions. And this is only a good thing, believes Maucor. “Traditionally, these are the kind of problems that arise and are solved at what you could call the ‘gumboot’ stage of a project – the on-site execution. The way SCIRT is set up, we all – the funders, designers and builders – work through every step, from investigating the problem to working out the solution and then executing it. So we, as contractors, are able to influence the design of projects to make them more efficient, cost-effective, quicker and environmentally better.” Being able to play such a role is beyond anything that he expected when he first joined Downer in Christchurch, says Maucor: “For an environmental scientist, you cannot imagine how fantastic this job is. Being able to help raise the bar of environmental management in New Zealand is an amazing way to spend these years of my professional life.” As for the trout, their future looks brighter. Encouraged by the clean-up, at the end of 2012 a Fendalton couple, Tony and Rosalie O’Neill, donated 400 yearling brown trout to be released into the river by Fish & Game. It is hoped that they will return as adults to spawn. The fact that it is believed to matter says a lot about what kind of Christchurch is being rebuilt for the future. Geoff Dangerfield, NZ Transport Agency, talks about working smarter Geoff Dangerfield Chief Executive NZ Transport Agency “New Zealand has a unique land transport funding system, which is the envy of many other countries. All of the money that people pay in terms of petrol tax and road user charges goes into a dedicated national land transport fund and we, on behalf of the government, invest that across the entire system. We’ve got a big planning and investing role and the thing that keeps me awake most nights is the demands on our system are really high. So we are changing some of the models around how we go about maintenance and operations work. We are trying to get more efficiencies and a service that is better oriented towards the customer. Downer collectively is the face of the agency. We have got to find smarter ways of doing what we’ve been doing and that is behind a whole raft of work around getting better value out of the maintenance contract work. Downer’s been coming along on this journey for several years, and we really welcome that.” DOWNER / IN BLACK & WHITE / 49


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