Meet the faces behind the highway upgrade: PT I
FOUR years ago, Colleen Catterson jumped on a plane from Ireland and headed to Sydney, ready to kick start her career.
She had no idea when she left home she'd end up living in the Clarence Valley, working on one of the biggest road projects in Australia, the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade.
"We graduated from university and unfortunately the market in Ireland is very poor. It's difficult for graduates to get good work in Ireland," Ms Catterson said.
"I was lucky enough to get a job in the Planning and Environment Department for a short period of time, but it wasn't a long term opportunity.
"So we thought why not just go to Australia because it's very popular for people in Ireland to come and people come back and just talk about how awesome it is."
But after three years in Sydney working for the Department of Industries in the Fisheries branch and working on the implementation of the Opal Card, Ms Catterson's partner Conor McNamee, who works for Laing O'Rourke, was offered a position as an engineer on the Pacific Highway upgrade.
"They scouted people that they felt would bring really good skills to this job... so he was brought up to this project," she said.
A little apprehensive about the move, Ms Catterson said he persuaded her to join him with the lure of the Clarence Valley's beauty.
"Conor moved up and he immediately fell in love with the area and convinced me to come up, we were living in Sydney and had the city lifestyle, always doing something and loved it so it was very difficult to move up here," she said.
"I did a year with RMS (Grafton) in the communications space and moved across into Pacific Complete because I had the knowledge of RMS and I was able to bring across my relationships and get that collaboration happening."
Now working as the communications advisor for Pacific Complete, Ms Catterson is loving her new life in the Clarence Valley.
"When I moved I was pleasantly surprised at the natural beauty and the relaxed atmosphere of the place. I love that you know you can just drive here and get a parking space very easily, it's very stress free... the people are very friendly as well," she said.
In her current role, Ms Catterson has to be across the Pacfic Highway upgrade from Woolgoolga to Ballina.
"It's tricky for people to stay across what each other are doing and being in different teams, it's key to keep that communication open," she said.
"It's trying to get involved in all the meetings and all the conversations that are happening.
"People tend to think what they are doing is just doing their job. But really what they are doing is really cool and it's new and there is innovation happening and they are like 'oh I've invented that but that's just part of my job'. Well actually no that's awesome stuff and we need to communicate that to our team internationally."
Wanting to get involved in the local community, Ms Catterson thought she'd join a cycling group.
"I'm thinking of joining a group but I think I need to polish up my skills... my dad cycles and he was like you need to be really confident to go out with a group because you do impact people behind you and beside you and it could result in an accident... so I was like 'I'll just cycle myself, that's fine'," she said.