After 15 years working on and off in the infrastructure industry, Kaikohe’s Tania Wihongi is a driver, operator and crew leader for Fulton Hogan in the Far North.
Her crew maintains the state highways around Kaikohe as part of Fulton Hogan’s Networks Outcomes Contract with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, helping to look after the almost 1,000-kilometre network of state highways throughout the Northland region.
Tania brings a unique perspective to her job, referring to herself as a maternal figure for the road. She refers to the highway as an “artery” and likens it to a “living, breathing thing” that demands nurturing and attention.
“I take great satisfaction in knowing that the public can transition freely throughout the veins of Waka Kotahi’s network,” she says.
Her relationship with the road has inspired her to write poetry about her experiences, exploring topics such as road safety and the challenges her team faces in all kinds of weather.
Her crew consists of herself, a teammate and a crew of traffic control workers who provide the space required to undertake tasks safely.
“We are all supportive of each other, much like geese in flight. While we go about our work on highways around our area I’m constantly honking away at them, directing and nursing the flock from one landing spot, or job site, to another.”
Her daily work provides plenty of challenges, whether it’s repairing a road after a storm, fixing signage or road market pegs, or assisting with clearing of slips. Some days require a lot of problem solving, she says, but overcoming these problems creates camaraderie amongst her team and providing a sense accomplishment that bonds them all together.
Many of Tania’s poems explore these daily challenges and she says they provide encouragement to others working in road maintenance, as well as increased public awareness of the need to drive safely around people working on New Zealand’s highways.
She says a career in road maintenance provides great satisfaction for those who are keen to be challenged.
“It’s a dynamic and ever-changing environment, full of proud people who are making a difference for local communities,” she says.
“You need to be flexible and have the ability to adjust and overcome. If you fit the profile then come and get some.”