Robin Hood and his band of merry men have nothing on a new group looking to keep lucrative civil contract work in north Queensland in local hands.
The protagonist is Phil Cassell from Cairns based Eco-Civil Solutions and he’s on a mission to compete with southern companies for the north’s project riches.
There’s a lot at stake in the civil engineering industry evident in a fight to get local suppliers recognised for work on the Peninsula Development Road upgrade, after none were listed in the first round of offers, Mr Cassell said.
With $250 million at stake, he was not going to take ‘no’ for an answer and lobbied to have local supplier capabilities recognised.
Cairns based Koppens and Weipa’s NQCC ended up winning subsequent tenders, Mr Cassell said.
“The Department of Main Roads went to expressions of interest for tenderers, five were shortlisted four from down south, one from New Zealand. Not one northern contractor was invited to the round one tender process,” he said.
“We got that changed for rounds, two, three and four where it was a more open tender process and those contractors all of a sudden started to get invited and guess what? They won the major projects.
“That employed 1400 far northerners. If we hadn’t intervened and used our political connections in the far north, if we hadn’t have had the support of our Chamber of Commerce as an industry group back then, that would not have changed.
“We’ve got local contractors who know the conditions, they know where to get the gravel, where to get the water,(and) how to work with the Indigenous owners of the land. It’s a superior outcome for everyone.”
Mr Cassell and a group of contractors have established a new peak industry group calling themselves the North Queensland Civil Construction Association with the joint aims to promote local suppliers, collaboration and education.
“Given that there are a number of crucial state seats up here in the far north and those seats can swing from election to election, that gives us a unique position to be able to get the attention. So political advocacy is certainly one of our main objectives,” he said.
“The second one is to form alliances between construction contractors so when the major projects come along … we want those principal contractors to draw from our subcontract pool.
“And of course, the third one is education. … We have some alliances already in the pipeline. One of them is a major project management organization; the other one is with a major university in the North that does civil engineering.
The membership statute is a broad offer taking in anyone who is in the design, construction and maintenance industries as well as ancillary support like finance and insurance, said Mr Cassell.
“My message to potential members, ‘jump on board’. Look, it’s a very affordable membership. One seat at the table: one voice, all the same. You don’t get a big contractor that can buy his way into a superior seat at the table. That’s why we have one membership fee.
“We all have issues, we all have different points of view and we are all in the same industry. We don’t have a tiered membership, which means we don’t have a tiered hierarchy. “
Membership is open to all industry members with business located from Mackay to Torres Strait.
Disclaimer –iQ Civil is a member of the North Queensland Civil Construction Association.