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Alliance model paves way for desired results

In the Tararua District, our largest rates expenditure item and our largest investment from the Government is for roading, so it’s a good time to shine a bright light on the transport alliance we have here.

The Tararua Alliance was established in 2014 to manage roading and water reticulation for our district. It’s a partnership between the Tararua District Council [TDC] and Downer to deliver a long-term maintenance contract for our district’s roads and water pipes.

The Alliance is part of the Council and operates with the pace and focus of a commercial operation. The medium-term strategic direction is set through the Transport Activity Management Plan and the Alliance team also contributes to the transport sections of the Long-Term Plan.

The Alliance is audited annually by an independent auditor. Downer also does its own audit each year to ensure the structure and processes are as efficient as they possibly can be.

Is Downer making big profits off the Tararua community through the Alliance? No. Costs are standardised and agreed each year for people, machinery, materials and facilities. Downer’s buying power means we can get the best possible prices for plant and materials. The margin on the contract has always been conservative. Additionally, if there is a modest profit for the year, Downer has opted to give a portion back to the community through sponsoring local events.

With the Tararua Alliance, risk is shared by TDC and Downer. This means that both maintenance and emergency work can be priced as low as possible to get the work done safely, because we know the roads, we know the risks, and we know the subcontractors. These relationships are a hugely important part of a successful alliance.

The Tararua Alliance works well because all the key functions the roading team need are under one roof: field staff, asset technicians, inspectors, engineers, transport planners and project managers. There is a culture of constant improvement, which resulted in our district getting the emergency funding it needed so quickly after Cyclone Gabrielle. We just wouldn’t have had the clean-up we did without this team, with 76.5 per cent of staff [85 of 111], local to Tararua.

The Alliance’s ability to pivot is vital, and without them, our response time in an emergency would be far slower because we would be spending time pricing emergency work instead of getting out and fixing it.

A subcontractor supply panel was set up earlier this year to help get through the remaining emergency work. As much as possible, emergency works that can’t be completed by the Alliance are contracted out to suitable local suppliers. Everything the team does is through the lens of a best-for network and best-for the community approach. For example, it costs just over $6000 a meter to maintain and renew roads in our district, compared to nearly $9000 a meter for Central Hawke’s Bay and Rangitikei.

We will see more Alliance-type models in the future as we collaborate for better infrastructure outcomes in Tararua.


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Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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