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work on one of New Zealand’s
biggest road projects — Auckland’s
Water view Connection.
Once completed, the 4.8km tunnel
and road project will provide a
motor way ring route around Auckland
city and a direct link between the
international airport and city centre.
Former Solid Energy miners Harold
Gibbens and Matt Coll, along with
construction worker and former
publican Mark Gillespie, are now
living in Auckland.
Building the Water view Connection
in west Auckland involves a number
of simultaneous construction projects,
ranging from the diversion and
upgrading of major ser vices on the
motor way route to construction of
New Zealand’s longest road tunnel.
The Water view link will be 4.5km
long, 2.5km of that a mostly bored
twin tunnel, with three lanes in each
tunnel. Once completed it is expected
to carry 83,000 vehicles a day.
Harold Gibbens works as a
super visor on the tunnel construction
for contractor McConnell Dowell
and is acclimatising to the Auckland
environment after initially being
employed on the West Coast.
“I was working for Solid Energy as a
miner at Spring Creek back home, but
like so many of us there, got laid off.
“I ended up getting a job for
McConnell Dowell and did work
around Pike River before working for
the company at Spring Creek. I then
went across to Christchurch doing
Then came an opening with
McConnell Dowell on the Water view
“They needed a super visor up
there and the opportunity came
up so I spoke to my manager and
said I wanted to further my career
in tunnelling on the tunnel boring
machine. It’s a massive machine which
is called Alice. It ’s German designed
and at the present the Auckland
operation would be the biggest
tunnelling project in the world.
“I worked for five months
super vising the crew on the machine
but I’m now working on putting in 17
cross passages which connect the two
“ My job basically is to make sure
things happen — excavating out and
putting supports in.”
Harold says it is a safe working
environment and though there
are similarities, it is a lot different
toworking in an underground mine.
“ It ’s a very safe operation as I don’t
work in open ground like working in
the coal mines back home.
“As you advance and go for ward
with the TBM a large shroud
completely protects you — it’s an
amazing operation. An estimated
800,000 cubic metres excavated
material will come out of the two
tunnels which is being used to reclaim
“ I’m living in the city and I find it
easy to drive to work.
“ I suppose I have adapted to city life
and I would say I have acclimatised
pretty good.There is so much
going on up here, it’s a very busy
“I enjoy the job and I work with a
good crew. The people have been very
accommodating and friendly.”
Mark Gillespie works on the
construction supply and demand area
of the operation, ensuring materials
and equipment are ready and waiting
at the coalface of construction.
“ I look after a crew of nine guys and
my job is making sure supplies get
down below, on time.
“ I’m the go to guy for the group
of engineers who I liaise with. The
engineers ring me and my role is
basically to ensure things happen for
Mr Gillespie had lived in Auckland
prior to travelling the country and
eventually residing on the West Coast
as publican of the Royal Hotel for
over five years.
“I have basically turned the full circle
and am now back on my old stamping
ground in Panmure.
“Harold Gibbens approached me
while I was working out at
Anzco meatworks at Kokiri, after
the beer had stopped flowing, and
said there was a work opportunity
helping to organise the surface area.
I’m working in Port Chevalier in the
Water view area.”
The magnitude of the tunnel and
road construction was initially hard to
“ When I first went into the tunnel
the curiosity of where you are initially
putyouoff — itwassuchabig
construction site, but it is a very
safe operation — safety on site is
the biggest concern of the whole
operation. It’s an engineering feat to
the highest degree, the machinery and
He says he feels right at home in
Auckland and has readjusted to his
previous lifestyle and pace of every
“ Time wise it takes me 20 minutes
to get to work, I leave at 5.30 in the
morning and leave work around 6
each night. I have a lot of good friends
on the West Coast but the people are
good up here too. I work with a good
bunch of people and have a good set
of bosses. The weather is probably
better up here but I think Auckland
has a lot more to offer.
“They broke through the first tunnel
last year and I reckon they will break
through the second tunnel around
August or September — that ’s my
Matt Coll worked for Solid Energy
on the West Coast and after losing
his job at Spring Creek worked on the
Pike River recovery process for the
“ I was working for Mines Rescue
and, towards the end, filling the
entrance to the mine. I could see the
writing was on the wall and knew
Solid Energy were never going to
do it. I made contact with Auckland
with the intention of going up there
“I sent my CV and there is no doubt
having mining experience helped me
secure a good job up here.”
He works as a mechanical super visor,
with the majority of his time spent
“The tunnel boring machine up here
would be the biggest in the Southern
Hemisphere if not the world — it ’s
massive. My job is organising the
work for the other guys in our section.
All up there would be around 1000
people to do with the overall project.
“There are two tunnels running side
by side with a 15m section between
them. One of the jobs is to put cross
passages through as emergency exits.
“I enjoy it up here and I think
tunnelling is the way to go these
days. It’s a case of transferable skills
working in the mine and then into
Mr Coll lives in central Auckland
and with the motor way close by has
a smooth process for getting to and
back from work.
“ It probably takes me 10 minutes as
I go straight out on to the motor way
but if I was living out of the city area I
would get stuck in traffic.
“ It’s pretty expensive to live up; here
I have an apartment in the central city
and pay $550 a week plus a car park
“ My contract is for a year and I’ll
just take it as it comes, but tunnelling
future for me. ”
Former Spring Creek miners have found a new career, working
with a massive tunnel boring machine under Auckland, called Alice.
Constructing the $1.4 billion Waterview Connection has opened new
doors for men more used to the coalface. PAUL MCBRIDE spoke to
some of the Coasters involved.
Matt Coll, left, Harold Gibbens and Mark Gillespie on site at
Auckland’s Waterview Tunnel construction.
An area of the Water view Connection being developed.
Alice, the massive tunnel boring machine.
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