Mar 06, 2018

Good grounding for project leadership

Good grounding for project leadership

It’s been 40 years since Dawson Wilkie swung a shovel for Ipswich City Council but the lessons learned as a navvy will be drawn on for his current project.

Working with Premise Engineering, Mr Wilkie is project manager for the $215  million Haughton Pipeline Duplication Project which will deliver water for Townsville from the Burdekin to Ross River Dam.

While the design is being finalised and potential pipe suppliers are working with the project team to lock down final specifications, some key features are an underground pipe of about 1800mm in diameter running for more than 36km and mainly laid in a trench some 3m deep and 3m wide.

It was important that everyone appreciated their contribution, said Mr Wilkie.

“I graduated as a civil engineer in 1978 and there weren’t a lot of jobs around so I worked as a labourer on the roads and drainage crew at Ipswich City Council,” he said.

“It was a good grounding because it gave me an insight into safety issues and dealing with people.

“The experience taught me the importance of engagement to help encourage a lot more job satisfaction. It helps to describe how each participant is part of the bigger picture and how their contribution can influence outcomes.”

The former Townsville City Council Director of Engineering has never been far away from civil infrastructure.

He’s worked with councils and main roads in Port Macquarie and Dubbo before moving the family north where they’d be close to a university.

As a senior infrastructure manager, he’s seen cyclones destroy Townsville’s Strand foreshore amenity and the ‘Night of Noah” which wrought widespread havoc a few years later in 1998.

Over the same time, the city has increased to more than 185,000 residents giving Mr Wilkie the opportunity to oversee upgradesto essential infrastructure including the $100m Cleveland Bay Water Treatment Plant project.

It all made for a good body of experience for the upcoming pipeline project, which Mr Wilkie said was about more than water.

“Townsville City Council could have taken the easy option and offered the design and construction of the pipeline to a international tier one organisation,” he said.

“But they chose to involve the community and maximise the use of local resources.

“The amount of local content and legacy opportunities for the city will be factors weighing in favour of bids as tenders are released.

“Our challenge is to make the most of the money available and return the biggest growth and prosperity dividend back to the city.

“There will be industry briefings in March and my advice to suppliers is to be prepared to work collaboratively with others from local industry to maximise their opportunities.”

The project is currently in the planning phase and the team is looking to start operational works in July with pipe in the ground towards the end of 2018 and first water through the pipeline in time for Christmas 2019.

Mr Wilkie is also chair of the Board of Professional Engineers which oversees professional standards of engineering in Queensland.

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