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Inside Story: Down To Earth

  • waterview-tunnel

Fletcher Construction hired, trained and paid a team of 10 Unitec engineering and surveying students, for work in precision monitoring for ground surface movements in the development of the Waterview tunnel, before, during and as the tunneling machine ‘Alice’ bored through the earth. 

Unitec students were able to gain industry experience right outside the classroom door, by working on the country’s biggest infrastructure project running alongside Unitec’s Mt Albert campus. Providing complete and reliable monitoring data to Auckland Council every month was part of the project’s resource consent requirement. 

Such surveying work is done to assess if there are changes in the earth as a result of the construction work, explains David Poyner, lecturer in Civil Engineering. “When you’re digging a tunnel you’re draining the water out, and when you’re changing the water content of the soil, it will shrink or expand.“ 

As those involved were studying full time, getting the work done was a logistical challenge for the Unitec team. However, it was completed on time each month and to the required millimetre accuracy standards.

The students were paid, but the experience also gave them a chance to apply the methods and processes learned in the classroom in the real world, says David. “For surveying students, it’s going to be their bread and butter, and for the engineering students it could be part of their work routine. So it aligned with their choice of career. 

“But they also learned life skills, such as making sure they got to the job on time, did a professional job, being aware of health and safety issues and so on.  I think students have been able to leverage this in a way that has helped get them a job.”

“One of the reasons we got involved is that student could show they had previous experience, they can say they had worked for Fletchers on their CV, and it might open the door a bit wider.”

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