Public works role a balancing act
As the man in charge of maintaining infrastructure for the Cairns Regional Council, Bruce Gardiner admits it can be quite a daunting task.
The infrastructure services general manager looks after about 450 employees responsible for everything from parks, gardens and footpaths to traffic lights, roads and drains.
Not surprisingly, every day can present a number of challenges to Bruce and his staff.More
“Daily challenges include keeping up with residents’ and visitors’ increasing expectations on the level of service the council should provide,” he said.
“There is never enough money and resources to do everything, so we are continually prioritising and allocating resources to the assets deemed higher priority or critical to the functioning of the city.”
Adding to the complexity is Cairns’ location in the wet tropics area of northern Australia.
“Not surprisingly, being in the wet tropics, the activities that generally consume the most energy and resources are drainage issues, particularly in the wet season, and tree and vegetation management,” Bruce said.
“We get 5000 to 6000 customer requests a year regarding tree management because things grow so fast in far north Queensland.
“We also have challenges maintaining the road network, particularly during the wet season when roads can deteriorate overnight when we get torrential tropical downpours.”
With a science degree, MBA and graduate diplomas in water engineering and management, plus an outstanding employment record Australia-wide, Bruce has a great deal of ability and experience to pass on, something he enjoys doing in his role as president of the North Queensland branch of the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia.
“We have four branches across Queensland and a head office in Brisbane,” Bruce said.
“The purpose of the IPWEA (Queensland) is to enhance the quality of life for all Queensland communities by advancing the skills, knowledge and resources available to those involved in the planning and provision of public works and services.
“As president of the NQ branch, together with my branch committee members, we attempt to inform and connect our members, who predominantly work in local government or consult to councils.
“We also advocate on behalf of members on public works policy matters.”
Bruce admits, though, that one of the hardest things about the role at times is keeping in touch with fellow committee members.
“One of the main challenges facing the NQ branch is the tyranny of distance,” he said.
“Our branch region stretches from Mackay north to Cape York and across to the Northern Territory border.
“Even getting the branch committee together for a meeting is difficult and that’s why holding the annual branch conference is so important as we often only have the time available to meet and share knowledge and experiences once a year.”
With so much on his plate, Bruce likes to use whatever free time he has to explore the natural attractions which make far north Queensland so famous.
“Although mobile phones mean you are on call 24 hours a day, I do find time to explore our wonderful tropical rainforests on weekends,” he said.
“I occasionally get out to the Great Barrier Reef and admire the amazing marine life out there.
“And, dare I say it, like many men my age, a few years ago I joined the MAMIL (middle-aged men in lycra) brigade and I try and cycle a few times a week, either on the road or on the many mountain bike trails around Cairns.”