My Name Is Jeffie!


City Rail Link’s latest tunnel boring machine has been named Jeffie after a hugely popular CRL social media naming contest. More than 30,000 people from as far away as the UK, USA, Europe, the Philippines and Afghanistan participated in the naming contest run in just under a week. The most popular name by far was Jeff.

Thousands of people voted Jeff based on the popular meme “My Name is Jeff” which was a line used by the character Greg Jenko in the 2014 action comedy film 22 Jump Street. Traditionally such machines adopt a female name so Jeffie, an aligned feminine name will be used. Jeffie was a popular girls name in the early 1900’s.

Naming digging equipment after women is said to be a tradition that dates to the 1500’s when miners prayed to St. Barbara to keep them safe underground.  Saint Barbara is the patron saint of armourers, artillerymen, military engineers, miners and others who work with explosives because her legend associated her with lightning. Popular runners-up were Bora the Explorer and Bessie.

The tunnel boring machine will shortly begin work in Mt Eden to divert a section of an existing stormwater pipe in preparation for the redevelopment of the Mt Eden train station. The contract was awarded to the March Bessac Joint Venture who were represented in the final naming decision. Thanks to everyone who participated and provided an impressive number of excellent suggestions.



Skyscraper wars: New 187m Auckland tower claims record

kkThe race to build New Zealand’s tallest new residential tower is heating up, as developers of a planned 187m Auckland apartment skyscraper claim victory over the 178m Pacifica now rising nearby. Both blocks are being built by companies with strong connections to China. Harrision Sha, general manager of Shundi Customs which is building the newly-named Seascape Apartments at 83 Customs Street East in the Britomart area, said the new 52-level tower would be that tallest building apart from the Sky Tower. “At a height of 187m, the visually striking Seascape Apartments will be 15m higher than the current Vero Building and 9m higher than the proposed Pacifica apartment building in the CBD,” Shundi said.

Melbourne-headquartered Hengyi Pacific is building The Pacifica which will be 57 levels. Yet Seascape is to be 9m taller than Pacifica, Shundi said. “Construction is now underway on Seascape Apartments, which will be the highest residential building in New Zealand, only exceeded in height by the Sky Tower,” Shundi said. Liz Scott, Hengyi Pacific’s New Zealand general manager, wished Shundi all the best and said construction works had been taking place on the site for months. “It’s not a surprise to us. It’s not new news to us. There have been resource consent plans in the public arena for some time around that development. It’s all about delivery of a quality product,” she said, citing advanced Pacifica ground works. “There’s lots of resource consents around for lots of things but we’re building and we have a quality product.”

The Seascape tower was previously called Customs Residential, about which publicity first emerged about two years ago. John Coop, chairman and principal of architecture business Warren and Mahoney, welcomed tall blocks generally, saying Auckland needed them to accommodate apartment dwellers. “I’m a strong supporter of the central city, inner-city living and having a growing resident population in the city. I’m a supporter of high-quality tall buildings that are designed well. The Unitary Plan enables height in the centre of Auckland which is where our tall buildings should be. It’s also important that tall buildings in Auckland are recognisably of Auckland, that they express Auckland’s identity, otherwise we will end up with an anonymous city,” Coop said. Shundi said a ground-breaking ceremony was planned for this afternoon.

“Seascape Apartments and two existing adjacent buildings on Customs Street East is a development by New Zealand-based property company Shundi Customs. Seascape Apartments was designed by architects Peddle Thorp, with Mott Macdonald as engineers. China Construction New Zealand is responsible for the building work,” Shundi said. “Seascape will house 221 apartments. The apartments will all be north-facing, with expansive sea views. The top six floors will be taken up by penthouse apartments, offering 360 degree views over the city and environs,” Shundi said. “The complete Shundi Customs development project also includes the refurbishment, recladding, conversion and seismic strengthening of the 12-storey office building on the corner of Fort Street and Customs Street East. This will become the boutique San He Yuan Hotel that provide integrated service to the residents as well. Work on the 4.5-star hotel will start in August this year and should be completed in tandem with Seascape Apartments in 2021.

“At the same time, the heritage Britomart Hotel – a public house dating from 1876 – on the corner of Gore Street and Customs Street East will be refurbished and renovated for commercial use. The development plan for this building is in the final stages of being finalised,” Shundi said. Marketing Seascape apartments will begin before the end of this year but the sales process won’t start until half-way through construction “to demonstrate a higher level of fit-out quality and provide more confidence to purchasers than selling off plans”, Shundi said. Shundi Customs says it is “a New Zealand based company backed by Shanghai Shenshun Investment, an established property developer from Shanghai. Shanghai Shenshun Investment has developed the boutique San He Yuan Hotel in Shanghai, as well as several high-rise office buildings, luxury villas and residential apartments”.


  • Anne Gibson
  • NZ Herald

Bugger! Anyone got a spade?


State Highway 1 north and south of Kaikōura will remain closed until at least the middle of next week after ex-Cyclone Gita brought down 300,000 cubic metres of debris over the road at 60 sites. Since Tuesday morning, the route has been closed south of Kaikōura, between Peketa and Goose Bay, and north of the town from Mangamaunu to Clarence – the same sections where significant earthquake repairs were carried out following the magnitude-7.8 earthquake in November 2016. Though the rain dislodged less material than what fell during the quake, when over one million cubic metres buried roads and railway lines , the rockfall is still significant.

The biggest slip came down just south of Okiwi Bay, to the north of Kaikōura. About 200,000 cubic metres of rock and dirt fell there. The slips have also closed KiwiRail’s Main North Line, which runs alongside the highway. NZ Transport Agency earthquake recovery manager Tim Crow said the slips were “very different in nature” to those caused by the quake and mostly came down at new sites. He said they would not require time consuming rock bolting and other slope protection like that needed after the earthquake.  “The great news is we’re all geared up, we’ve already got trucks and excavators working on clearing this material.”

About 95 millimetres of rain fell over Kaikōura in the 48 hours to 9am on Thursday, but it was heavier in the hills to the north and south of the town. MetService meteorologist Josh Griffin said 300mm fell at Rosy Morn, south of Kaikōura, during the ex-cyclone.  State Highway 1 is one of the major arterial routes in the South Island. It reopened only on December 15 after more than a year of repairs and had closed several times since due to weather conditions and ongoing rebuild work. This week’s closure leaves just one way in or out of Kaikōura – the difficult inland route via Waiau. Those travelling between Picton and Christchurch must use the challenging alternative route over the Lewis Pass (SH7).

Crow said crews were focused on getting a single lane of traffic open to reconnect Kaikōura. The reopening date will be reviewed on Monday.  The storm damage had not “gone backwards” on the work that had already been done after the quake. The completed work around Ōhau Point, where the quake damage was most extensive, held up well in the storm, as had the new seawalls near Irongate Bridge. Kaikōura mayor Winston Gray said it was a shame the road was closed again, but the town “just had to live with it for a while”. “We had to expect it because there’s a lot of movement up on those hills alongside the highway.” He said he had heard nothing to suggest it would be shut for a long period. He thought overseas travellers would still come to the tourism-dependent town, though the closure may discourage domestic visitors.

The annual Kaikōura A&P show – a popular horse event – will still go ahead on Saturday, but Gray worried those planning to head down from the north would no longer make the longer trip. KiwiRail Main North Line project director Walter Rushbrook said a lot of areas that had undergone earthquake repair work “held up well in the face of the severe weather”. “Our teams are already under way clearing and repairing the track, but this work will take some time and we will not be in a position to run any trains between Blenheim and Christchurch next week.

“We will get the line open again as soon as we possibly can and we are already working on getting the freight rolling again by extending operating hours at our Blenheim Freight Hub to support transport of freight through the South Island.” Rushbrook said KiwiRail was in close contact with its customers. A possible reopening date would be provided next week.  The Christchurch Transport Operations Centre said motorists using the state highways at the top and west of the South Island should check forecasts and road conditions before travelling.


  • Michael Hayward
  • Photo: NZTA



Competition pushing construction sector into ‘race to the bottom’


Competition has pushed the construction sector into a “race to the bottom” where companies are taking on projects to win revenue rather than chase profit, says a top industry boss. David Prentice was chief executive for seven years of NZX-listed Opus International Consultants, a multi-disciplinary infrastructure consultancy with 3000 staff that was bought by Canada’s WSP Global in December.

Prentice, who is now leading the integration team at WSP Opus in Wellington, did not wish to comment specifically on issues at Fletcher Building, which last week announced further losses of $660 million at one of its divisions and said it would not be bidding on any new big projects. But speaking about the construction industry generally, Scottish-born Prentice told the Herald earlier this month that the building market was becoming increasingly challenging.

“To design a building 20 years ago you’d need top structural engineers, your top architect, your top mechanical and electrical engineers. Nowadays a lot of this can be done using computer packages and what have you. So what it’s doing is it’s taking the design away from almost an art to a science,” Prentice said. “And what that means is that the margins that can be made on vertical infrastructure such as buildings is far less than it was before, therefore the need to make sure that you’re absolutely on point when you come to do that work is essential because very quickly a very small margin can turn into a very big loss,” he said.

“You always want increased competition but as long as increased competition isn’t a race to the bottom. Unfortunately it has been a race to the bottom so people are going in incredibly tight to actually win revenue, so they’ve been chasing revenue as opposed to chasing profit.” These issues weren’t isolated to New Zealand and around the world people in the building sector were having to work harder “to make an honest buck”, he said.

Prentice believed that the way in which contracts were procured needed to change as right now the client or customer was pushing all the risk to a consultant or contractor. “The best contracts without a shadow of a doubt are those contracts where risks are explicitly shared between all three parties, consultant, contractor and client … I think the client and the customers, particularly central and local government, have got a long way to go in respect of maturity in how they procure projects.”

Prentice’s comments were echoed by Registered Master Builders Association boss David Kelly. “We need to work with government to improve the way we manage pricing and risk in our sector,” Kelly said. “Government procurement should not be an exercise in one party minimising all their risk. At the end of the day, all parties need to commit to working collaboratively and equitably to deliver on a project. Anyone building or renovating a home, let alone a multi million dollar construction project, appreciates that there needs to be some flexibility in adjusting for costs”, he said.

“We need to move away from focusing on cheapest initial price — this never gets the best result, limits innovation and stifles research and development,” he said. In the wake of Fletcher Building saying it would not bid for any more big construction work, Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said any company with big projects would consider using overseas firms, including from China. “We like many others in New Zealand would like to see a proper and well-functioning construction industry [here].

There are also a bunch of European operators who have acquired New Zealand businesses and operate in New Zealand,” Littlewood said on Friday. Overseas firms would have to draw on New Zealand sub-trades if they were involved in big projects as it was difficult to import all the skills. Auckland Airport is spending $1.8 billion over five years on building infrastructure and Fletcher Building is involved in one phase of the Airport’s big build — the international departures terminal. Littlewood said Fletcher’s focus on completing projects was important for his company.


  • Hamish Fletcher
  • NZ Herald
  • Photo: Getty Images

City Rail Link – Cut & Cover Construction


57-storey giant set to tower over Auckland

auaHengyi Pacific, the company planning a 57-level tower in downtown Auckland, has already built two Melbourne super-towers and is well under way with a third. And now it has big plans for its site here. Although many Auckland apartment projects have been cancelled before construction began, Hengyi – one of Australasia’s largest high-rise unit specialists – appears set on going ahead. The $300 million Pacifica project would be New Zealand’s tallest apartment tower. Construction is due to start next month, near Auckland’s waterfront.

Dean Fossey, a Hengyi Pacific director who is based in Melbourne but comes to Auckland every fortnight or so, this month showed what the company has done across the Tasman, and revealed more detail of its Auckland plans. “By March next year you’ll be starting to see the structure rising,” he said. Features of Hengyi’s two existing Melbourne towers give an indication of some of the elements planned for the Auckland boutique hotel/apartment tower, on a site between Commerce St and Gore St, a block from the waterfront in the Britomart area.

Hengyi’s first Melbourne project was The William, an office block conversion of two adjacent buildings – a 23-storey tower on William St and a 21-storey building in Little Bourke St. That has an outdoor pool and a hotel. That was followed by the Light House project on Elizabeth St in the Melbourne CBD. The newly opened 69-level, 607-apartment tower is distinctive for its colour and angular floor plates. It has almost a Rubik’s Cube look, all angles, colours and jutting points, making it stand out strongly on the city skyline. Melbourne developers are not afraid of colour – a big difference to Auckland. Elenberg Fraser were the architects and Multiplex Constructions built it.

And Hengyi is now working on Swanston Central, designed by the same architect, a 72-level, 1039-apartment project nearby at 168 Victoria St in Melbourne’s Carlton neighbourhood. In fact, level 69 of Light House provides a bird’s eye view of Multiplex’s progress on Swanston Central. On the ground floor of his offices on Collins St in Melbourne’s CBD, Fossey has models of The William and Swanston Central. Also based in that office is Hengyi chairwoman and founder Min Wang, originally from China, and director Lu Xing, also originally from China but in Melbourne for more than 20 years. Both had returned this month from a trip to Tibet, where they visited temples and viewed Mt Everest, said Xing, sporting Tibetan wrist beads.

Aged in her late 40s, Wang is said to be a billionaire as a result of developing buildings in China. Her CV shows she has an MBA from Beijing University. Her partner, Liang Chen, is Hengyi president but while she lives in Australia, he remains in China. Hengyi is affiliated with mainland Chinese developer Shandong Hengyi. Other Hengyi Pacific directors are Jeff Wang, Fossey and Hengyi’s boss on the ground in New Zealand, Liz Scott, who is the company’s general manager (NZ). Simon Manley is Hengyi’s development manager.

Fossey said car parking efficiencies were one of the features planned for the big Auckland tower. “We don’t dig a lot of holes,” he said, pointing to just two basement levels at The William and two at Swanston Central. “We’re not big on basement digging.” Stacking systems maximised car parking: at the newly opened Light House, there are just 158 parking spaces over seven levels. “This is how we get away from digging a hole.” Two car parking lifts are planned for The Pacifica, with robotic-style car stackers. Residents will drive into a dock, leaving their vehicle on a turntable. The car will then be remotely moved into place. Fossey said Hengyi had examined high-tech car parking systems in Germany and Singapore. “We just use the [car] lift like a passenger lift. Car dependency in Melbourne has diminished.”

In Auckland, ground works for the project will involve boring for piles and pouring concrete for the foundation. The skyscraper itself will be built of concrete – in contrast to the steel-framed Commercial Bay project, now rising nearby – with a double-glazed glass curtain wall. Exterior balconies will be on the lower levels. “Light House has balconies up to about level 40 but it’s not possible above that. It’s a decision we make project-by-project,” Fossey said. The now-rising Swanston Central will have exterior balconies up to about level 24, he said. “But Pacifica will be on a site more exposed to the water than the Melbourne projects are,” Fossey said. Hengyi’s Melbourne projects are far from the city’s tallest. For example, Multiplex is building Australia 108 in the city’s Southbank area, a residential tower that will be 319m tall, not far short of Auckland’s 328m Sky Tower. That Melbourne super-tower is due to open in 2020, and will have 1105 apartments on 100 levels, says Multiplex. Fossey said Aucklanders had welcomed Hengyi’s arrival and were “more welcoming than Sydney or Brisbane”, where the developer has also looked for work. “Going into Auckland, people are interested in what we’re doing, trying to understand it.”

But will the huge Pacifica project flood the market for apartments? In a study, Colliers International found 1391 new apartment units – including those at Pacifica – in the CBD, 961 on the city fringe and 1443 in suburban areas. Half the units are under construction, but building has not started on the other half. Pete Evans, Colliers’ residential project marketing national director, said next year would see the highest number of Auckland apartments completed in more than a decade – but not enough to meet demand, and only a year’s supply. “In major cities with population growth, we would expect supply to be anywhere between 12 to 24 months. Most apartment projects take two to three years to build, so the current under supply will remain in the foreseeable future,” said Evans. “Auckland’s population growth, and banks restricting funding, is not assisting the needed supply of new apartments.”


  • NZ Herald
  • Anne Gibson

$300m Riccarton Racecourse housing development gets Government green light


The Government has approved a $300 million, 600-home development at a Christchurch racecourse.

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith said building could start at Riccarton Racecourse after Cabinet removed the land’s reserve status on Monday.

The land, situated around the outside of the race track, will be developed by the Christchurch Racecourse Reserve Trustees and Ngai Tahu Property.

Parliament passed legislation to hasten the development last June.

Smith said freeing up the land would increase the housing supply and provide a financial boost for the Canterbury racing industry.

“The key to improving affordability is increasing supply and this development will do that while helping first home buyers into a new, high-quality homes,” he said.

“This development, alongside those at Awatea, and Colombo and Welles streets, is the final phase of the Government’s housing response to the Canterbury earthquakes.”

Smith said Government interventions in house planning and supply since the earthquakes made Canterbury one of the most affordable regions in the country.

“It provides a model of how we can resolve issues in other centres and a competitive advantage for the Canterbury region in attracting new industry and people.”


  • Jamie Small
  • The Press
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