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A secondment into Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has given Tony Garchow new perspective on the day to day running of a road maintenance contract and the opportunity to work in partnership with one of Beca’s major clients.
A Civil Engineering Senior Associate with Beca in Dunedin, Tony was seconded to Waka Kotahi as a Maintenance Contract Manager (MCM) from late 2021 to April 2022 for the Coastal Otago network. The MCM acts as the Engineer’s Representative for the Network Outcomes Contract (NOC) and for this contract the Contractor was Downer Group. The NOC covers all road maintenance activity associated with network management and physical works on the state highways across the Coastal Otago State Highway network.

How did the opportunity come about?

“Waka Kotahi approached us to see if we could help backfill a personnel gap in the short term,” he explains. “This was an ideal opportunity to step away from my normal role for six months and put myself in the client’s shoes. I seized the chance to be involved in a role we don’t typically get to experience at Beca – we tend to work on single projects rather than maintenance contracts.”

Take us through your typical day.

“A typical day for an MCM can involve a bit of anything and everything,” he says, “from reviewing and responding to customer feedback, to dealing with unforeseen issues like a collapsed culvert or fallen tree, ensuring the renewals programme is on track and being across what’s happening nationally.

“You have the full range of interaction with the contractor looking at programmes, approving variations, claim processing, getting out on the network for inspections, or carrying out audits.

“The MCM also works closely with the Senior Network Manager, who scopes work to be priced and completed under the NOC, plus maintenance work for the separate Regional Structures contract comes through the MCM for pricing and reporting.”

What skills and attributes make a good MCM?

“My background in civil engineering gave me a solid grounding for the role, which requires attention to detail, good communication and problem-solving ability,” Tony says.

“But an MCM is also a ‘people role’ to a certain extent, where being level-headed and pragmatic will serve someone in the role well.

“The MCM and the contractor can’t be constantly butting heads, they need to work in partnership for the benefit of the road network and the road users,” he says. “You don’t have to be a technical expert, but you need to be willing to work with the contractor and Waka Kotahi to identify the most cost-effective solution.”

What have you gained most from the experience?

“As an MCM you have a thorough understanding of the importance of promoting good maintenance practices, which lead in turn to a safer network – and safer journeys for everyone,” Tony explains.

“System management is a focus area for Road to Zero, New Zealand’s road safety strategy which aims to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads by 40 percent by 2030. 

“Being able to spend six months in this role has given me an appreciation for how we as civil engineers can serve the public and play a role in supporting Waka Kotahi achieve wider road safety strategies.”