Comment Contractor

Update from the NZ Transport Agency

TommyParker2Tommy Parker, Group Manager, Highways, NZ Transport Agency 

I’VE JUST RETURNED from a period of time over in the UK – this time away was part work, part spending time with family and friends.

While in the UK, I spent some time at Highways England and attended the UK Roads Conference. This has been most useful in shaping our thinking in some areas and I look forward to sharing more about the ideas this visit has sparked in my next column.

In the meantime, we, and the rest of the sector, are into our next financial year and we are gearing up to deliver what I could term a significant programme of works.

To put this in perspective, looking at the Safe Roads Alliance alone, we already have four projects underway, but are expecting to have 120 project phases (business case, pre-implementation and construction) complete or underway by the end of 2016/17.

The Safe Roads Alliance is responsible for fast-tracking much of our ‘Safer roads and roadsides’ programme under the government’s ‘Safer journeys’ strategy.

This is a lot of work, and a lot of contracts, particularly when you add the work we’ve already got underway in the Roads of National Significance programme.

Over recent years, we have been keeping an eye on ensuring a healthy supplier market. We are very aware that a strong contracting industry can only be good for the economy – and for us here at the Transport Agency of course. Without a strong contracting industry, we can’t deliver what we need to.

The large number of project phases the Alliance is committed to delivering is what I see as a great opportunity for those contractors who are keen to grow.

At the recent Civil Contractors NZ conference, our Project Services team delivered a session on the forward programme and how we are organising ourselves in the way we procure it. This focused on the programmes we published and encouraging our suppliers to get involved, including outlining some of the things we’re working on such as a Competitive Early Contractor Involvement delivery model, developing an improved approach to managing panel contracts, and improvements in the way we interact with suppliers through our Supplier Relationship Plan.

There are a few boxes to be ticked to be one of our contractors – for good reason. Transport is one of the largest government spends, and we’re the custodian of that. We need to ensure this investment is spent wisely, with either minimal risk or the option of taking a considered risk.

Prequalification is an acknowledgement of your qualifications and experience, and it saves time and effort in the tender process. Some months ago, we moved to ISNetworld to help us manage our prequalification system.

Overall, as a sector we have a lot to gain from using ISN. It will be used as the regular communication channel going forward for our Zero Harm and prequalification communications. It allows you to house all your company’s safety training records, certifications and training videos; helps identify potential gaps in written health and safety programmes to drive continuous improvement; and allows you to prequalify with a number of differing hiring clients. We are continuing to monitor and review usability and support from the ISN service to ensure we are getting the benefits we expect.

Recently, Civil Contractors NZ raised with me concerns that our move to ISN meant some of our smaller contractors were finding an element of financial uncertainty.

To this end, we have reviewed our arrangements, and have taken the opportunity to commit to an extension of the period for reimbursement of subscriptions for organisations with up to 24 employees, through until the end of 2016/17. We have also decided that any previously prequalified supplier can retain their ability to tender for our work, with any subsequent award of contract being conditional on ISN registration, through until 2016/17.

Please talk to our Project Services team if you have any queries or would like to discuss ISN further.

Talking of Zero Harm, our Zero Harm team recently announced we have registered ConstructSafe test centres in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch. This means if you are working on one of our projects, it’s now easier to take the ConstructSafe test.

ConstructSafe is an initiative run by the Construction Safety Council. It provides a consistent and transparent way to independently check people are competent and safe to work at our sites.

From July 1 this year, the scheme became the principal requirement for new and existing projects and contractors. We have a 12-month implementation plan, to enable our contractors to plan how people can access the testing and to ensure capability to meet the Tier 1 (Foundation Health and Safety) competency standard.

To find out more, go to www.constructionsafetycouncil.co.nz.

And on the theme of safety, you may have heard the news that the Transport Agency is establishing a Centre of Excellence for Road Safety – this process is being led by Harry Wilson, whom many of you will know as our regional director for Waikato.

This is about maximising the impact of our activities by working really closely with our road safety partners to deliver better outcomes for New Zealand using all the mechanisms that are available to us – including our roads and roadsides, vehicles, drivers and road rules.

We have too many people who die or are seriously injured on our roads. A simple fact of road safety is that almost all the time we’re not talking about bad people or bad drivers; we’re talking about ordinary people who make a simple mistake which has tragic consequences.

The first step through the Centre of Excellence will be developing and implementing an organisational improvement programme for road safety – this will integrate our safety work programme – appropriately focusing, prioritising and aligning road safety activity for our organisation in a way that will resonate and deliver results for New Zealanders, so watch this space.

Finally, one of our major areas of focus for this year is resilience of our network. Resilience is about preserving and quickly restoring access to the network in the face of unplanned events.

We’ve been tackling this for some time: we are well advanced in seismic strengthening key bridges; have well established and internationally recognised avalanche control and rock fall management initiatives in place; have improved scour protection programmes in place for at-risk roads; and have been working on building greater resilience and better alternative routes into our network. In conjunction with our local government partners and Lifelines groups, we have resilience emergency response plans across New Zealand.

We are now putting increased momentum behind this work. Just some of our deliverables include up-to-date, field-tested business continuity plans for each region; consistent, field-tested emergency response places at every level of our network; an expanded programme of targeted resilience improvements and maintenance activities; an online interactive GIS tool for detour maps, and closer links with local government and New Zealand Lifelines.

This work will result in an increasingly robust network with improved alternative routes, decreased recovery time when it comes to network outages and, ultimately, customers who are better informed about our network when it comes to getting from A to B.

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