Robert Batters

Meridian Energy

As senior project manager of the Te Uku wind farm, Robert Batters showed outstanding leadership to bring the project in ahead of schedule, under budget, and with an excellent record on safety and environmental goals.

His innovative thinking, problem-solving skills, and ability to build and manage relationships with stakeholders and employees were critical to the success of the project, Meridian Energy says.

Robert's achievements are all the more impressive considering the significant challenges the project faced.

These included an extremely tight budget, with contingency funds of less than 3 per cent of the total $240 million cost. The earthworks required were huge - including construction of 26 kilometres of roads - and were achieved in challenging soil conditions during a period when the Waikato region experienced some of the wettest weather conditions in more than 70 years.

Despite that, close cooperation with contractors and consenting authorities meant that the overall construction programme remained on track while at the same time ensuring the environment was protected throughout construction. Even with atrocious weather conditions there were no lost time injuries during construction of the wind farm - an impressive feat considering the contract involved more than 800 employees and 355,000 man hours.

Relationships key

Meridian says Robert, a key player at the company since 2001, was able to get those kinds of results because of his visible leadership and ability to bring out the best in his team. He had the courage to encourage innovation and focused on relationships with employees and stakeholders as the key to successful performance.

Those elements came together across many areas, growing community support for the project, delivering strong environmental results, while frequently also lowering costs.

Integrating civil works and turbine delivery enabled the construction team to reduce the size and number of lay-down areas required to store turbine components, cutting cost, their environmental impact and rehabilitation expenses.

A flexible approach enabled construction plans to be varied when alternatives gave better results. Monitoring pavement performance reduced the use and cost of cement stabilisation. Active soil selection and conditioning reduced the volume of material to be disposed of, reducing trucking time and the number of disposal sites to be managed.

Bucking the industry trend saw Robert rely on local procurement where possible, with more than 51 per cent of those employed residing in the Waikato region. A local joint-venture, rather than one of the `big five' firms, carried out on-site contracting while local iwi were hired to plant more than 40,000 native seedlings to rejuvenate nearby wetlands.

That local participation, coupled with community activities, speaking engagements and a visible presence of project engineers in local schools and shops, helped tie the development into the community. The positive relations that resulted were a great achievement, given the early reservations among some locals about the project.

In 2011 the Energy Executive of the Year Award category was sponsored by Transfield Worley.