Spotlight on the Piritahi Alliance: A great career development opportunity

Richard Lawton
Richard Lawton
Senior Associate – Survey Manager (Design) Piritahi
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What’s it like working as part of the Piritahi team? Richard Lawton shines a spotlight on Woods’ involvement in Piritahi, working together with former competitors, and why it is an amazing opportunity from a career development perspective.

What is Piritahi?

If you haven’t heard of Piritahi before, it is an alliance of design and construction companies formed to help prepare existing land for redevelopment, essentially enabling the rebuilding of social housing across different Auckland neighbourhoods. The alliance brings together industry experts such as Woods, Dempsey Wood, Harrison Grierson, Tonkin + Taylor, Hick Bros Group, and Kāinga Ora to create essentially a one-stop-shop of companies working together to make this transformational work happen. Woods is primarily involved in the design side of Piritahi’s projects, providing Engineering, Survey, Project Management, and Planning services.

Revitalising tired state houses and making better use of the land

Everyone knows the classic state house. With some of these sections, the house sits right in the middle of quite a large parcel of land; and the land isn’t being used to its full potential. Much of this housing stock has also become tired - drafty, cold, damp etc. and the infrastructure is well past use-by dates.

Piritahi’s projects consist of removing these houses and consolidating adjoining sections into new super lots, so we can remediate the land, remove any contamination from the soil, install all new infrastructure that will last the next 50 – 100 years, and ultimately, make better use of the land so we can provide more people with homes.

A great career opportunity under a different model

It’s a different beast working in an alliance with other consultants who you would not normally work alongside or build teams with, and you start working more collaboratively straightway with new people. The joy is that you don’t have to ring up the geotechnical consultant, or ecologist, or email them to ask a question about the conditions of the ground, you can just go and talk to them and almost be involved with it.

Plus coming from a land development space where we typically do the design for a client and then the client engages a contractor to build their development – now everyone is all under one roof. It’s taken down a few barriers and streamlined the process. You’re getting a bit more involved overall, and helping the project come to fruition a lot quicker than it might have done in a business-as-usual setting. It’s quite satisfying in that respect.

The Piritahi project is a bit of a departure from what I would consider a ‘normal’ land development project back at Woods. Even though we are working on behalf of Kāinga Ora, these days I tend to think of the client as the person or the whānau that will eventually have a new home built for them on land we have we reshaped, remediated and provided fresh infrastructure for, including open neighbourhood spaces. That I personally find pretty rewarding.

I’ve found myself regularly challenged at Piritahi, but I find it rewarding as I know at the end of the day, I’m helping more people get into new homes.

Former competitors becoming friends to create a great workplace vibe

Over the last couple of years, it's been a bit crazy with lockdowns and returns to work, but when we've been in the office together it has been great. Our office is down by the viaduct and has just been refitted with everything you need, stand up desks and the rest of it. When everyone is there from the neighbourhood design teams and construction teams, there’s quite a good hum.

You become friends with people you may never have met from other companies. Piritahi provides more relationships and contacts, people to network with, and socialise with.

For anyone who has the opportunity presented to them or is considering being involved in the alliance as a stepping-stone in your career, I’d highly recommend you talk to your Woods manager or our HR Manager (Vanessa) about doing so. Well worth the change in scenery and the challenge of a new project!!

*Richard Lawton has been on a secondment as a Survey Manager (Design) in the Piritahi team for the past three and a half years. Before his secondment, he worked as a Registered Professional Surveyor in the Woods surveying department.

Richard Lawton - Survey Manager (Design) Piritahi