Sam Currie of Gisborne’s Currie Construction was the winner of the latest round of the EPIC Photo Competition – themed around the ‘EPIC Difference’ civil contractors make for NZ – with a stunning photo of an emergency response project that maintained access between Gisborne and Wairoa following Cyclone Gabrielle.
After the flooding, a slip blocked a culvert positioned 12 metres beneath the road. This meant a watercourse above the highway near the famed Mōrere Hot Springs was filling up with water, running over the road at an already fragile fill area and putting the road at risk of being washed out entirely.
Despite the team pumping water 24-7 to take the pressure off and minimise damage to the road, an emergency culvert replacement was the only way to take away the risk of the road being washed away at the next downpour, at a time when the earth was still moving.
Sam and his team worked with knowledge of how important the project was to keep transport between Gisborne and Wairoa open, and to make sure the East Coast town could receive vital supplies via road.
The project had to be done in just two days of road closure. Delivering it on time needed great collaboration between Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, Quality Roading and Solutions, Currie Construction, and the project subcontractors to be a success.
“We smashed it out together. We got it done and it was a big relief,” Sam said.
“We had crews out there working together, on night shift and day shift. At that time, it was the only connection to Wairoa. Normally you’d be able to go from Napier to Wairoa or via Tiniroto from Gisborne, but that wasn’t possible at the time, so this was the only connection. It’s quite a crucial link.”
“I think we had four or five diggers there, tipper trucks, wheel loaders, stockpiles of supplies on each side of the road. Getting the road open again meant the supply chain of food and fuel was back for Wairoa. And the project meant if there was more flooding, we minimised the risk of losing the road.”
The team’s work and willingness to adapt to situations impacted by the disaster – such as by batching concrete on site when transport wasn’t possible – has bought time for a long-term solution to put in place to re-construct the road in a location where the ground is still moving.
He says if disaster strikes, he is glad to be able to put the skills he has built throughout his career to good use in the recovery.
“I think if the worst happens, you’ve gotta be able to think on your feet and find a solution to avert disaster. You have to be able to adapt and make it work – it’s all the same sort of concept. It’s quite nice having the opportunity to do something that actually makes a difference.”
Sam started his career as a builder, working on piling projects, but expanding into civil construction in 2015 following a stint constructing East Coast forestry roads. Currie Construction now maintains a civils division of around 30 staff.
As for what’s next, he says there’s plenty of work ahead on the East Coast to restore transport networks, water networks and private properties, and he’s looking forward to “getting on with it”.
Sam won an EPIC prize pack including an EPIC Jacket and t-shirt, a $300 gift card from Z, a scale model of some of the EPIC technology used in infrastructure construction and more.
Michelle Hoffmann of E.N Ramsbottom in Wellington was this round’s runner-up, with a contemplative photo of a new stormwater pipe installation in Porirua. She wins a $100 gift card from Z, an EPIC t-shirt and an EPIC jacket.
Some of this round’s top entries
Winner: Sam Currie of Currie Construction – SH2 Mōrere, Gisborne – Emergency Culvert Installation