When recent flooding hit the Gisborne (Tairāwhiti) and Wairoa regions, Rick Gardner and his team at Fulton Hogan were still carrying out repairs on difficult sections of road damaged in weather events two years ago.
“In 20 years, I’ve been involved in a lot of these events around the country, but this has been the worst and most widespread,” he says of the region following the deluge of rain that washed away roads and spurred a local state of emergency last month.
In his role as the East Coast contracting divisional manager for one of Australasia’s largest infrastructure and roadworks construction companies – Fulton Hogan – Rick is the conduit between builders, suppliers, councils and communities. He manages teams at the most professional level while delivering vital road and infrastructure projects in challenging areas.
“High rainfall and young geology make engineering challenging in Gisborne, it’s also a large area with a small ratepayer base so there isn’t always a lot of local funding to improve infrastructure which requires constant attention,” he says.
Though it’s clear he loves what he does and points to projects like the landmark Motu Bridge replacement, and improvements around aerospace manufacturer RocketLab’s Mahia Peninsula launch site as an example of the unique programs his team proudly delivers.
Growing up on farms on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, Rick always knew he wanted to work outside in a hands-on environment.
“At high school, a careers advisor lined me up with a contact at Fulton Hogan, and from there I applied for a Keystone study award – which was known in 2002 as the Graeme Bringans Property Trust.”
“This supported me through my work at Fulton Hogan while I studied to achieve a diploma in Civil Engineering at the Waikato Institute of Technology (WINTEC),” he says.
Following an extended overseas experience in Europe, Rick was ready to come home and spent the next five formative years working with the Auckland Motorway Alliance maintaining highways.
This role saw him test his capabilities as a capital projects special projects manager in a central position he credits with honing his diverse skillset.
“I was building noise walls, designing safety improvements and planting a few million trees,” he laughs.
Yet the latter aided a depth of knowledge in landscaping and urban design with the flexible nature of his role – and his exceptional commitment to delivery, allowing him to focus on his key areas of interest.
His passion for the industry is unfaltering and an excellent example of professional fulfilment.
Of his most memorable achievements, he points to Fulton Hogan’s work with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), which has allocated funding under the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) to support social procurement in regions including Tairāwhiti.
“We’re the lead goose in the region when it comes to social procurement and I am really proud of our ability to create employment opportunities in conjunction with infrastructure projects that help to facilitate local prosperity.”
He says to the business’ strong culture and ability to find which peg fits the right hole is a key factor in its high staff retention rate.
“As my career progresses, I am moving away from the coalface, and the highlight is now developing teams – I am an advocate of hiring staff based on attitude rather than what’s on their C.V and developing people to get the most out of them,” he adds.
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