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Soldiers gaining experience on large-scale Manawatū roading project

NZ Army soldiers are picking up cutting-edge engineering skills normally outside their lane by taking part in the construction of a large-scale roading project in the Manawatū.

02 September, 2022

NZ Army soldiers are picking up cutting-edge engineering skills normally outside their lane by taking part in the construction of a large-scale roading project in the Manawatū.

A partnership between NZDF and the Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway Alliance has created an opportunity for soldiers to be involved in the replacement for the Manawatū Gorge Road, which was closed in 2017 following a series of slips.

Waka Kotahi – NZ Transport Agency commissioned the Alliance to build the Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway, an 11.5km-long, four-lane highway between Ashhurst and Woodville that will reconnect communities, while providing a more efficient, resilient and safer route for all road users.

Troop Commander 2nd Engineer Regiment 25 Engineer Support Squadron Lieutenant Blair Jones said soldiers would benefit from the project as it was on a scale they wouldn’t normally be exposed to on a day-to-day basis. 

While Army engineers often used heavy machinery to construct or cross obstacles, keeping troops and equipment moving, working on a project of this scale doesn’t happen often.

“Our soldiers will learn more about what is involved in an infrastructure project of this size. They also learn how to use updated and new plant equipment that utilises up-to-date GPS tracking systems for tracking plant movement, digging depths and boundaries.”

He said the project provided work experience where plant operators could gather practical evidence and verification of competency, which could contribute towards the completion of a number of Civil Construction National Certificates.

Soldiers on the project are learning how to use updated and new plant equipment.

From left to right Sapper Ryan Hay, Sapper Kieran Cropp and Sapper Jared Greenfield are some of the staff who have worked on the project.

It also allowed soldiers access to industry-leading subject matter experts, who were more than willing to share their knowledge.

“There will be two to three soldiers on site for a six-week rotation, which will continue until the duration of the project” Lieutenant Jones said.

Te Ahu a Turanga Alliance Project Director Tony Adams said the soldiers working on the site had quickly become an integral part of the earthworks team.

“These soldiers are highly capable professionals, so we’re utilising their training and experience to benefit the construction of the highway."

"We’ve inducted 18 soldiers to date and we look forward to their ongoing contribution to this vital piece of infrastructure.”

Waka Kotahi’s Owner Interface Manager for Te Ahu a Turanga, Grant Kauri, said the soldiers’ involvement was another example of how the project placed a high value on partnership and collaboration. 

“Partnership is a core component of everything we do on this project. We’ve partnered with iwi, with the companies designing and building the highway and with our surrounding communities. The NZDF has a long history of supporting people and communities, so we’re thrilled to have their personnel involved in this project.”

To mark the partnership, a memorandum of understanding was signed by the NZDF and Fulton Hogan (on behalf of the Te Ahu a Turanga Alliance) in April this year.