Battling slips, rock falls, high winds and flooding is all in a day’s work for the team maintaining the state highways around New Zealand’s capital city.
The region is one of the world’s windiest and – as any Wellingtonian will tell you – the capital also has one of the wettest and most unpredictable climates in the country. It’s a challenging job and means ongoing road maintenance is critical, long after a new road is opened and vehicles begin to pass over it.
It’s not for the faint hearted, but there are fantastic opportunities for those who are up for the challenge. This month we caught up with some of the team from Capital Journeys to find out why they love their work and how people considering a new career in 2022 can dig into road maintenance.
“It can be challenging but it is also quite satisfying,” says Anthony Hagley, a site foreman with Fulton Hogan. “It’s the kind of job where you can be driving around years later and pointing out all the work you have done.”
Fulton Hogan is working alongside professional engineering services company WSP as part of the Capital Journeys joint venture, which maintains the highways in the lower North Island for Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.
Anthony’s role sees him supervise work and dig in alongside his team to maintain, renew and operate 685 km of Wellington’s roading network. Most recently his team has been doing maintenance on the SH2 Remutaka Hill road, which links Wellington and the beautiful Wairarapa, to the north.
This important road is the sole connection between the regions, and it’s a notoriously winding and blustery stretch of highway. The work involves general maintenance as well as replacement and upgrading of guard rails, with the narrow carriageway sometimes closing overnight so workers can work without disruption.
“There are some amazing views up there,” Anthony says. “We have a good team and there’s plenty of work to be done every day, with lots of variety.”
General Hand Serah Otineru agrees. She has been working for Capital Journeys for six months and enjoys the range of different jobs and the satisfaction of working on something people use every day.
“Just last month we had a really big slip at Pukerua Bay and we had to get out there quickly to help with traffic control and clearing. I really enjoy it and it’s good experience. There’s plenty of jokes and banter, which makes the work fun.”
Her path into the industry began with a six-week Limited Service Volunteer (LSV) course at Trentham, where she met some great people and learnt some valuable practical skills. Upon completion, she quickly picked up a job with Fulton Hogan.
Roading work isn’t just about being ‘on the tools’ or driving massive machinery all day. Although that is an aspect of it many enjoy, there’s also plenty of brains required to go with the brawn.
Kiriana Wairau-Hunter is one of the bright young lights of the Capital Journeys team, working behind the scenes as a civil engineer to keep things running smoothly and to make sure teams are programmed effectively to ensure the project can be completed on time and on budget.
A recent Weltec Diploma of Civil Engineering graduate, Kiriana is now embedded in the Fulton Hogan graduate programme, which sees her rotating through different departments to gain an understanding of the business and exposure to new skills and roles.
She decided to get into roading after enjoying her time working as a labourer in Fulton Hogan’s vertical construction division.
She says she completed the diploma and then joined the graduate programme so she could follow in her father’s footsteps and leave her own legacy.
“I’ve always been interested in heavy machinery and I think that’s what got me into roading. My dad used to work for Fulton Hogan as well and I used to see the office sometimes growing up. As a little girl I gravitated towards machinery – I loved the diggers and the trucks.”
While her current role is office based, she still gets out on site a fair bit too, she says.
“One summer there was a big washout on the SH1 Coast Road and seeing the big Moxy trucks and machines working to clear it, and what they could achieve so quickly, was awesome.”
“I think as a female engineer and being Māori, I’d like to see more females and Māori people in the industry. That motivates me – to support more Māori people and females into engineering roles, or supervisory roles in the future.”
At present a quarter of the Capital Journeys team are female, and one in five are Māori, but those numbers are growing. Capital Journeys employs 37 staff, and the area is services includes three tunnels, coastal highways and mountain passes, and the primary connections to the airport and port serving the Capital.
Are you inspired to pursue an EPIC Career in Road Maintenance in 2022? Capital Journeys is looking for more team members, from field workers and excavator operators to drivers holding class 1 or 2 licences. Visit the Fulton Hogan website for vacancy information.