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Seawall foundations under construction – NCTIR crews worked close to machines in harsh coastal conditions throughout the highway rebuild, making worker safety and good communication between teams a prime consideration

Kaikoura earthquake recovery work wins H&S award for excellence

The NZ Transport Agency, KiwiRail and the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) alliance have been recognised for health and safety excellence at the 2019 Safeguard Workplace Health and Safety Awards.


The Kaikoura earthquake response won in the collaboration category which acknowledges effective communication and collaboration between two or more organisations on the same worksite.

“The safety of workers and the travelling public was paramount from the outset and we developed a health and safety approach that brought more than 300 organisations involved in the earthquake recovery to the same high level of safe work expectation,” says Steve Mutton, chair of the NCTIR board and a director, regional relationships, for the Transport Agency.

Recovery from the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura earthquake presented unique logistical challenges, with many organisations coming together to deliver a coordinated response, he says. “Critical risks on this large and unprecedented project had to be addressed, with emergency works, design and construction all happening at the same time.” 

The health, safety and wellbeing processes had to work for builders, designers, engineers, ecologists, geoscientists, abseilers, archaeologists, suppliers, helicopter pilots, seal handlers, tunnellers, traffic management staff and local residents. 

Specific issues

The road and railway line, which intertwine along this narrow coastal stretch, presented a challenging and high hazard work environment. “KiwiRail’s expertise ensured that workers across the project were upskilled on the protection regimes to keep them safe in a rail environment and crews could work across both road and rail when needed,” says Mr Mutton.

It was an unusual work environment with specific wellbeing issues resulting from the remote working lifestyle, which meant that crew worked long hours while living away from home. Plans were put in place to help manage fatigue and balance working hours with maximising home time. Work was also undertaken to help integrate workers into the Kaikoura community, so it felt like a home away from home.

“We acknowledge and thank the wider Kaikoura community for the way they stepped up and made our people part of their world over the past two-and-a-half years,” says Mr Mutton.

“We are really proud of this award and acknowledge our alliance partners, subcontractors and the 8500 women and men who have been inducted into NCTIR over this time for putting safety first in everything they do and for working collaboratively to ensure everyone can go home safely after each shift.”

Significant milestone

NCTIR is coming up to a significant milestone in June 2019. It will soon be reaching 5 million person hours with a great safety record.

Work continues on rebuilding parts of SH1 through Kaikoura this year and installing safe stopping areas, road widening to create a road shoulder, guardrails and double centreline markings in several places as part of a safety and resilience package of work.

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