Upskilling ourselves – Tommy Parker

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ROAD MAINTENANCE AND OPERATIONS has been under the spotlight in recent years. The sector as a whole has recognised there were opportunities to review delivery models to gain better value for money and to be smarter in how, when and why we deliver road maintenance activities.

Tommy Parker, Group Manager Highways, New Zealand Transport Agency
Tommy Parker

At the time, there were many different opinions on what the right answer might be. The NZ Transport Agency and the sector were determined to work together to find those answers.

One aspect of this was the agency taking greater responsibility for driving optimal levels of investment through in-house strategic asset management, performance management and contract management, to become a more knowledgeable client.

But what exactly does becoming a more knowledgeable client mean? This is a rather large question to answer. In fact, this is one of those questions where the answer becomes more complicated the more you try to answer it.

The end goal is becoming a knowledgeable client who can specify the most cost-effective outcomes and be able to challenge their suppliers on quality and best ‘whole of life’ solutions, and to set a framework within which they can perform at their best.

I believe we have started down the right track. But the answer is one that only the sector as a whole can determine. The 16th NZ Transport Agency and NZ Institute of Highway Technology Annual Conference, being held November 1-3 in the Bay of Islands, provides us with the ideal opportunity to continue this conversation.

And looking at the conference programme, we are well down the track to getting great outcomes. The highway technology sector is a broad and complex business, with components ranging from the business case approach to specifics such as visual audit guidelines and continuous improvement in Epoxy open-graded modified porous asphalt (OGPA).

What I find particularly encouraging to see is the diverse range of workshops being delivered by the sector and the Transport Agency.

If you’d like to find out more about SCRIM and measures of road conditions, John Donbavand from the Transport Agency, Robert Davies of Statistics Research Associates and Peter Cenek from OPUS can help with that. Or if you want to find out more about alliancing and how it’s working, join the session being run by Ray Cannon of Tararua District Council and Chris Edsall of Downer NZ, or the one being run by Chris Allen of Hamilton City Council, and Doug Carrasco of Downer NZ.

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Find out more about innovation by hooking into the innovation strategy session run by Chloe Smith of Fulton Hogan or find out more about thinking and processes to deliver the right solution in a session from William Gray of OPUS Research.

The point here being that there is a huge range of topics, delivered by a group of people across the transport sector who are experts in their field.

Now is an exciting time to be in the transport arena – it’s a time of change and there are plenty of opportunities out there for people who are prepared to take up the challenge of getting themselves into the position of being a knowledgeable client.

If you want to know what is important to us in the Transport Agency in the highways space, and if you want to understand and influence sector direction, I encourage you to take the opportunity to get along to the 16th NZ Transport Agency and NZ Institute of Highway Technology Annual Conference. Come along and join the journey. For more information and to see the conference programme, go to

On a slightly different note, I have had the pleasure of attending both the Civil Contractors and ACENZ conferences, where I enjoyed many great conversations.

Without doubt the most feedback I received was industry support for the Transport Agency’s commitment to Zero Harm. It is great to get such strong feedback from our suppliers.

It is clear, however, that we still have much to do and we are seeking to continue our learning in conjunction with our stakeholders and partners. Please keep the feedback coming and let us know how we can improve, and where we can help you in our learning in conjunction with our stakeholders and partners.

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