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The Fine Line Between Progress And Development And Effect On The Environment

Working in construction on large projects is an interesting balance between getting the job done and minimising the impact on the environment.

The advocates of development are usually perceived as being poles apart from the environmental purists which creates a somewhat negative engagement where no one side wins and the focus is not on what is possible.

This has recently come to mind on a project that I am working on where the consenting process for a new road which is desperately needed to link communities is characterised by blanket opposition from environmental authorities and some interested parties. The question is whether the community benefits and wellbeing is more important than some impact on the environment?

The reality is that most contractors, and certainly my company which is a Kiwi owned family business, have no interest in “trashing” the environment and spend considerable time and resources in looking for innovative ways to deliver infrastructure and minimise the effect on the environment.

Working with the various environmental stakeholders we can find solutions to minimise the impact and in most cases do additional work in the area to enhance environmental outcomes that provide ongoing legacy after the project.

By using the collective energy of the parties to look for positive outcomes we can deliver real value and meet most of the expectations of the parties. Negative position-taking wastes energy and misses out on adding value.

When battle lines are drawn invariably a commissioner or some independent authority will make a decision which often is a compromise that does not suit anyone or leaves one side totally dissatisfied. I am an advocate for the collaborative engagement and developing an integrated solution which meets most parties’ expectations. There is always a solution – the more collaboration the better it is!

Otanerua Eco-Viaduct on the Northern Gateway motorway north of Auckland
Otanerua Eco-Viaduct on the Northern Gateway motorway north of Auckland.

The solution for the Otanerua Eco-Viaduct on the Northern Gateway motorway north of Auckland minimised unique bush clearance to construct a bridge that allowed the vegetation below to grow and for Fern Birds to fly under the road as well as not touching the stream below. “Old thinking” would have cut a swathe through the bush and provided an earth embankment and a culvert for the stream. Over 10 years on it is hard to see where the access tracks were.

Where development will proceed to better connect communities and provide more housing, working collaboratively we have the opportunity to ensure that the environmental impact on flora and fauna is minimised. Effective collaboration is key to radically improving the outcomes for wildlife and the environment.

Brian Robertson, Vice Chair WReNNZ


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