It was a full house at the industry briefing at the Grafton Community Centre on Wednesday night.
It was a full house at the industry briefing at the Grafton Community Centre on Wednesday night.

Highway plan gives hope for small operators

IT'S a well worn adage that good things come in small packages, so despite the sheer size and scale of the Pacific Highway upgrade on our doorstep, a new partnership model and delivery concept will offer opportunities for the 'little guy' to get involved with the 155km Woolgoolga/Ballina project.

This message was relayed to a crowded Grafton Community Centre at an industry briefing this week.

Around 300 major and minor contractors and suppliers from the Clarence and North Coast area turned out to learn about how they can gain work on the giant project.

Traditionally major infrastructure like upgrading large sections of national highway have been contracted on a complete 'design and build' basis with one major company, handling the entire project from start to finish, employing their choice of sub-contractors to see the project through to completion.

For the first time a different approach is being taken with the Woolgoolga/Ballina upgrade with appointment of Pacific Complete to partner with the RMS to manage and deliver the project through new and innovative solutions.

One of the more notable changes is in the supply chain operations which will be being broken up into 'packages', with the ambition to provide a more efficient and flexible opportunities for those smaller companies interested in getting involved in a big scale project.

Speakers from the RMS and Pacific Complete emphasised the unique opportunity being presented to smaller operators with the ability to deal directly with them when tendering for contracts.

"Direct contract, direct contact" was the key message.

RMS general manager Bob Higgins said this new approach would mean better access to competitive suppliers and sub-contractors, in turn offering a range of benefits for everyone involved.

"This delivery partner model was credited with the successful delivery of infrastructure for the London Olympics so we have tailored that model to suit the needs of the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade," Mr Higgins said.

He said this partnership model aimed to draw the best ideas and solutions from the private sector and resulting in better engineering and design, customer outcomes and value for the public.

"One of the benefits of this model is greater access to resources and more flexibility in their use, which will help better respond to delays and disruptive event such as flooding.

"Having direct engagement with design, management and construction people will also help fast track the upgrade."

Mr Higgins said there would also be educational opportunities available for local businesses and people who were keen to upskill and gain the qualifications.

"Organisations including North Coast TAFE and Clarence Valley Council have started hosting information sessions to equip local contractors with the skills to apply."

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