If you’ve ever driven on one of New Zealand’s newest expressways and highways, chances are that Civil Engineer and Unitec graduate Greg Watters would have had a hand in it.
With nearly 20 years in the Civil Construction industry under his belt, Greg has overseen earthworks projects that have run up several hundred millions of dollars, thousands of square metres of pavement, tens of kilometres of roading, scores of major culverts, countless bridges and a handful of steam pipe crossings. Not bad for a self-confessed “fairly average student who went to school to play sport and eat his lunch”.
Back in the 90’s Greg spent seven years underground in Australia, working the mines, but it wasn’t until he gained his West Australian Shotfirers’ Permit that he felt inspired to move on to something else. The then 30-year-old Greg turned up at Unitec in 2001, keen to study but not really knowing what he wanted to do. He landed in the Engineering class, found a mentor in then-Academic Leader Grant Hudson, and the rest is history. After graduating with a bachelor in engineering specialising in Civil, he started work for Fulton Hogan as a site engineer before working on the Northern Gateway Toll Road; the first toll road in New Zealand to be fully electronic and was one of New Zealand’s largest and most challenging roading construction projects.
Since then, his CV reads like an arterial version of Who’s Who with stints on the Huntly Section of the Waikato Expressway, Terrace Views Subdivision in Papamoa, Tauranga Eastern Link Project and the East Taupo Arterial Project.
Greg is currently working on the multi-million dollar Hamilton Section of the Waikato Expressway which is 22km of new highway between Tamahare and Ngaruawahia and constructed under Alliance model. He is General Manager of sub-alliance partner Hick Bros Infrastructure, responsible for the management of multi-million dollar budgets and a multitude of staff.
Large earthworks projects are complex and challenging and have many moving parts, says Greg. As part of his role, he oversees a 160-strong team of plant operators, labourers, site and project engineers, environmental engineers, surveyors and project managers – many of whom are on site. Last year his team had to face the additional pressures of heavy rainfall throwing much of their planning into disarray, but he’s proud to say they have succeeded in making up lost time and everything is now back on track.
Greg says his Unitec experience helped reinvigorate his view of study and got him excited about the industry. He says his move into Civil Engineering was a chance decision but one which has given him amazing opportunities. “Unitec helped point me in the right direction”, he says.
His work life isn’t conventional. His office is in large part his car – he drives to wherever his projects are, spending most of the week travelling, with typical work garb being waterproof boots and a high-vis jacket.
Despite the demands of work and family life, Greg has kept up his love of sport and is a keen triathlete, competing in and around his Tauranga base. And where will we see him in ten years’ time? “I’d like to be doing what I’m doing now”, says Greg. “I love my work”.