Not many people know that a new one metre diameter pipeline lies under Hamilton’s main western arterial route and it was a big job to get it there. Ann Graham talks to the contractor about the project challenge.
Wayne Collinson, Operations manager at Connell Contractors, says the company targets projects that have a bit of difficulty to them.
“We’re not as risk averse as other contractors and the tricky projects always have an angle that will benefit us.
“They also challenge our staff and that’s important in a job.”
Wayne is referring to the pipeline featured in the Western Wastewater Interceptor duplication project, part of Hamilton City Council’s $2 billion capital investment programme providing for future growth and compliance in the city’s western quarter.
This 2.4-kilometre wastewater pipeline will carry sewage from the Norton Road and Lincoln Street roundabout, along the Avalon Drive Bypass towards the start of the Waikato Expressway, and connect to the city’s Pukete Wastewater Treatment Plant.
TBM first of its kind in the Waikato
“The installation was complex and hadn’t been been done in Hamilton before,” says Wayne.
“With the help of March Cato’s skilled staff using their slurry tunnel boring machine (TBM), two new pipelines have been installed under the highway and connected to a diversion chamber, which is 6m x 6m x 5m deep.
“This will be used to split and control the sewer flow to go down the newly installed Western Interceptor pipeline or the old network, both of which run to the Pukete Sewer Treatment Plant.
“The diversion chamber has two large control valves (Penstocks) and a weir structure in the centre, which can be adjusted to suit the flow depending on the conditions at the time.
“The slurry TBM is a very accurate method of trenchless installation when you have a ‘flat’ grade and a specific target to reach with no compromise.
“This portion of the job was initially designed to be installed using pipe ramming to install a steel casing. As anyone who has done a bit of pipe ramming before will know, casings can deviate all over the place.
“Keeping them on-line and grade is pretty much impossible, especially with the ground that we have to deal with. After some discussion with the local council it was agreed that the use of the TBM was the only method to achieve the result with the site restrictions they had to work with.”
Allocation of attributes
It’s been a while since Connell has worked on a project in the company’s hometown, but the award-winning CCNZ member made a strategic decision that it wasn’t going to tender on price alone.
“As directors, we’d recognised that there was an unfair allocation of risk on the contractor when tenders were won on lowest price,” says Wayne.
“So, we compete for tenders that have more weight placed on attributes. They’re the really rewarding ones – for us as a company and for our staff.”
Civil construction is in Wayne’s blood. As a Certified Civil Trades Person, he has worked closely with multiple stakeholders, managing complex utilities relocations and new infrastructure installations.
They include the Pressure Main 11 in Christchurch, the Port of Tauranga and Tauranga’s Eastern Link, Gisborne’s Waste Water Treatment Plant Upgrade, and Madill’s Farm Box Culvert installation for the Auckland Council.
“We’re a good subcontractor, but we’re an even better head contractor and that’s the position we like to be in,” says Wayne.
“We have good relationships with our subcontractors and look after them. Anything that deviates from the contract is discussed and is put to the client collectively, we stand by them and always pay them on time and respect the skill they bring to the job.
“It’s not just collaboration with subcontractors, it’s collaboration with the client as well,” he adds.
“The Western Interceptor project has some extremely technical sections to it and we are working with the council to come up with the best design.
“We explained to it [council], at the tender stage, how we would approach the project, what we believed the right method was, and how we’d tackle the tricky parts.
“Going under the highway required a very specialist installation method so by providing the client with information about the technique to do the installation, they understood what it would take to get the result they wanted.”
Tackling the big ones
The Western Interceptor isn’t the first collaborative project Connell has embarked on with Hamilton City Council, nor is it the only tricky one. The contractor was also tasked with installing the Rotokauri Bulk Watermain.
“This was 3.5 kilometres of 500 and 600mm diameter pipe installed from Pukete right through to Tainui’s Rotokauri subdivision,” says Wayne.
“The initial Rotokauri Bulk Watermain project covered nearly three kilometres, running from Pohutukawa Drive to the intersection of Akoranga Road and Te Wetini Drive in northern Hamilton.
“Watermains, stormwater utilities, wastewater and other services such as power, gas and telecommunications existed in the area, which made placing the new watermain a challenge, but one the team met head on.”
Fellow Connell director and CEO, Lester Foxall, says winning the right projects for their people to work on is a strategic focus.
“We are passionate about our people and take great pride empowering them to develop their career.
At Connell, we say we don’t offer jobs, rather we offer careers. We ensure our staff are constantly challenged, but we give them the training, guidance and support they need to ensure our projects are a success.
“We have always stood true to our tagline, ‘Right People, Right Result’.
“And that extends to those we work with.”
While some of the trickier parts of the Western Interceptor pipeline were laid by the end of last year, there’s still another 18 months of work ahead for Collinson and his team and he’s hoping more will arise from it.
“It’s great having a job on our doorstep, particularly one that requires a bit of thought. I like the niche component of the trickier projects that not everyone can do. It enables us to prove to clients we can do the job. And the more we can do, the more it helps our track record.”
That track record is already evident if Connell’s recent business success is anything to go by. In November, Connell won the Supreme Business Award at the 2019 Westpac Waikato Business Awards, as well as the Business Strategy and Growth Category.
Which goes to show – if you have the right people you can achieve the right results.