Wellington Highway Manager Rod James is leaving the Transport Agency after six years’ service and with some major projects under his belt.
Rod James has built a reputation for doing the ‘undoable’, and the way to get things done, he says, is to be innovative and work constructively and collaboratively with people.
The Mackay’s to Peka Peka Expressway project, for instance, went from a pre-consenting phase with some strong public opposition, to a point where the relationship with the community is in a far better place.
“This is not a business as usual project. There’s a huge amount of work outside of the main roading alignment to enhance the cycling and walking facilities in Kapiti, there’s the environmental mitigation and the local road connectivity. The way that project is going now is a reflection of the work we put in up front to build a relationship with the council, and work collaboratively through the Alliance board,” he says.
Working collaboratively is what Rod sees as crucial for the future of the Wellington transport network.
“We’ve been talking to Wellington City Council (WCC) and others about a more collaborative model across the whole management of the network so it will be interesting to see how that develops. This has a lot of potential – regardless of whether amalgamation happens or not – I think there’s an opportunity to work more closely on capital maintenance of the road network,” he says.
“We’ve had really good examples of that already. We’re working with WCC around delivering improvements to the Wellington network, even outside of the highways. The Memorial Park Alliance, a Transport Agency-led initiative, is now working on other projects with WCC such as the Victoria Street improvements; and, through our Ngaranga to Aotea contract, the Transport Agency is assisting in Johnsonville to deliver a new rail bridge, and other local road improvements.
“The Transport Operations Centre (TOC) is another example. Over the last four years we’ve taken it from being a fairly small scale operation to being a 24/7 partnership with WCC and Greater Wellington. We are working together on ANZAC day plans to minimise disruptions due to various ceremonies in the city.”
Rod has been known to challenge the status quo and look for more effective ways of doing things.
“We’ve taken an innovative approach to overlapping some of the normal processes, where we were ready to start construction immediately after securing consents. If the Mackays to Peka Peka Expressway project is delivered in time, to the current construction programme, it will be the first major roading project where the construction has taken longer than the consenting phase”.
While Rod takes a lot of pride in the major projects he has progressed during his time at the Transport Agency, he attributes the achievements to having a great team.
“I’ve challenged them to do some pretty innovative things and to stretch the boundaries and they’ve responded. And some of them really enjoy it – it’s what they like about the work they do. I see as much of that coming back from them now. They’re a much more empowered group who really know their business, and are challenging the way we do things for the better”.
Rod took up his new role in April as the Infrastructure Director for Cardno, an international professional services company. He’s tasked with growing the New Zealand arm of the business, particularly in transport and major infrastructure.