ENGINEERING INNOVATION AWARD – PROJECT
48-DAY SH6 REMEDIATION PROJECT
“I wish to put on record the high praise that Nelson City Council and the Nelson community has for the combined project team and particularly Fulton Hogan for the exceptional work completed on SH6 during November and December 2022, following the worst climatic event in Nelson for 50 years.” – Hon Dr Nick Smith, referee.
Fulton Hogan’s 48-day SH6 remediation project demonstrated innovation on a process level, that will have implications for countless future projects. The innovation in planning was critical to the success of the project, with the judges particularly impressed by the way the team thought about the local community and how to support them.
This entry highlights an initiative that may have useful future lessons for how we address the effects of climate change in road repairs and maintenance – building back better.
Waka Kotahi entrusted Fulton Hogan with an extraordinary 48-day programme to reinstate SH6, mending the crippled highway between Nelson and Marlborough, after a metre of rain swept across the top of the South Island in August 2022.
As an initial response, the road was opened after the weather event, but the decision was later made to enact a seven-week full road closure to undertake full repairs as part of recovery and enhanced resilience.
This decision capitalised on safety, speed, flexibility and efficiency gains of working across the entire road width by way of a road closure. This gave freedom to deploy resources between sites most efficiently, and to achieve other repair and maintenance work in parallel.
With meticulous planning and the support of Waka Kotahi, WSP and a number of subcontractors, Fulton Hogan did in seven weeks what would take many months using a traditional, linear tender-design-build approach, reducing the social, economic and environmental impact and enhancing the quality of the outcome.
The project had scalability designed into it. Achieving certain milestones/trigger points created options for expanding the project midstream, expanding benefits of the road closure. As a result, the project grew considerably, yet was completed on schedule on Sunday 18 December.
The approach combined certainty with flexibility. Certainty came from a design freeze once the concept was agreed. The flexibility came from the ability to reduce or add activity at key junctures. Rather than using it as a ‘safety valve’, the team embraced this operational flexibility by adding two significant elements to the four retaining walls, river realignment and multiple culvert replacements outlined in the plan. These additions were removing 20,000m3 of spoil from an active slip above the road and making the Red River alignment permanent.
Although managed from Nelson, the design process was accelerated by having a different WSP office designated to each structure and the design work sent to teams in the Philippines for drawings overnight, a seamless 24/7 operation.
The key was having design and construction done as one, by the people who would also ‘own’ the project management throughout. Four project cornerstones were:
i) Trust. Waka Kotahi entrusted Fulton Hogan, an existing maintenance supplier, to deliver the work within a very tight timeframe.
ii) Intensive planning. The period between the flood and the beginning of the road closure was maximised for planning on all aspects, including preparing for foreseeable eventualities for those living in and near the closure.
iii) Contingency planning. Multiple ‘off-ramps’ and ‘on-ramps’ enabled the 120-strong team to pivot, as necessary, at any critical juncture.
iv) Resourcing. Fulton Hogan’s ability to bring its teams from six regions to supplement the core Nelson team, and best-in-class subcontractors who gave the project their undivided, 24/7 attention throughout was critically important. In all, over 120 staff were brought in at short notice.