In the second of a new interview series we have a casual chat with Andrea Cave, environmental manager, Winstone Aggregates.
How long have you been in the industry?
Approximately eight years in the quarrying industry in New Zealand.
Where did you get your qualifications?
Undergraduate, Masters and Post Graduate Diploma of Business all at the University of Auckland.
Where did you start?
When I graduated from university my first ‘real job’ was working for North Shore City Council. This was a great foot in the door and allowed me to see ‘planning’ and ‘environmental management’ come off the pages of university text books and into the field. The work here was varied and also included out of hours pollution control … I still remember fishing over 40 decaying dead eels out of a creek with a rake after they had been killed by a pollution incident. Unfortunately we were never able to catch the culprit in that case but it certainly brought home the damage people can do to our precious waterways when they break the rules. When someone takes a shortcut by pouring something hazardous down the drain I don’t think they realise the damage they can do to the environment.
How did you end up in your current position?
When we returned from the big OE I decided that I didn’t want to do any more council work (I had also worked for three separate councils in the UK while away) and a friend was currently working at Winstone Aggregates. They mentioned that WA had a new national environmental coordinator position and I thought it sounded like a great opportunity so I applied. I can admit this now, but I didn’t know a single thing about quarrying at the time … prior to the interview I had to give myself ‘Quarry 101/Winstone 101’ via the internet. Lucky for me Mike McSaveney (my first quarrying boss) was a very patient teacher when it came to ‘operational quarry matters’.
What does the job involve?
No day is the ever the same in this job. Officially it involves resource consents, policy planning, sustainability reporting, environmental management systems, sponsorship, monitoring and reporting, audits and inspections, environmental best practice, working with Iwi and local communities, operational excellence and environmental training.
Unofficially it involves whatever work needs to be done on the day – irrespective of whether it is environmental.
What is the most challenging part of the industry?
For me the most frustrating part of the industry is probably the misconceptions that the public have about the quarrying industry.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
One of the more frustrating aspects of this role is the cost and delay of the resource consenting process on the business and trying to balance Winstones’ need for certainty against a process partly outside of our control.
What is the best part of the job?
Difficult to identify just one thing and brevity has never been one of my stronger points. The people I work with would have to rank right up there, as well as the knowledge of contributing to the long-term future of our quarries by securing resource, but then the diversity in the role is also appealing … some of my colleagues at work are trying to encourage me to say more with less but this is still a work in progress type of project.
Does your role conflict with the views of friends and family?
No. I have never really had that problem. I think for the most part people can see that quarries are an essential part of everyday life. It is easy to understand where the rock from our quarries goes in terms of roads, drainage, concrete etc and thus why we need quarries in close proximity to towns and cities.
What is the most interesting aspect of the job?
I would have to say the diversity aspect in terms of one day I could be working on something like a resource consenting project in Christchurch and the next day it is a rehabilitation exercise in Wellington. No day is ever the same.
Describe a job incident you are memorably proud of?
Last year was Winstone Aggregates 150th birthday which I think is an amazing achievement. In order to celebrate this occasion I was extremely proud to be the MC for the official 150th dinner. Part of me was petrified I would fall off the stage and embarrass myself, but luckily all went to plan and I am proud to think that I helped contribute to the legacy of the brand.
Describe an incident that didn’t go so well?
Those people who have worked with me will tell you that I have a lot of ideas … mostly good, some marginal and some pretty leftfield. With the advent of our 150th birthday last year my schemes to celebrate were in overdrive. This started with the grand plan to head to MOTAT to rescue one of Winstones’ original wooden carts. I thought we could restore it and as part of our 150th birthday, attach it to a horse, one of us could drive it and then we could deliver a load of scoria down Mt Eden road as part of some community sponsorship plan. Tony Carpenter and his car racing trailer kindly offered to assist and off we went … rescued the cart from the back blocks of MOTAT … got the wobbles when we unloaded it at Three Kings … those wooden carts can really move when they get up speed. Then we get a call from MOTAT to say: “Really sorry but we think we gave you the wrong cart we actually have your one back here and it has Winstone painted on it” …. this current master plan is currently on hold while I come up with Plan B.
You have been fronting the AQA as chair for some years now. What do you think is the association’s best achievement over that time?
Difficult to select just one but I think the ability of the industry to come together over recent health and safety reforms has to be commended. As everyone knows, the quarrying industry in New Zealand is diverse in terms of location and parties involved – no two sites are the same. There is still a lot of work to do on this front but we are heading in the right direction but this relies on all persons involved stepping up to the plate and being proactive on all matters health and safety.
What remains to be done?
Like most industry associations there is a long road ahead of us but I am confident we have a great team and a focused approach.
Health and safety has been, and will continue to be, a major focus for the industry. From a planning perspective the AQA will continue to advocate for better planning processes and a less restrictive legislative hierarchy so that resources are not sterilised for future demand. Case in point is the Auckland Unitary Plan process of which the quarrying industry has been commended on its ability to work together. From a technical perspective, there is a lot of work being done on the clean-up of the RAMM database, recycling, use of suboptimal aggregates, NZ Standards and the list goes on. For anyone interested they should have a look at the AQA Business Plan on our website.
What advice would you give other women coming into the industry workforce?
Anyone who knows me will think you are very brave to ask me a question like this one, as typically I don’t like to differentiate on the basis of gender. However, I am always supportive of young people coming into the quarrying industry … whether they be male or female. For example, at Winstones we have a fantastic group of graduates in our graduate programme. Of these grads, four are female and they are all very well qualified, confident and making their own path in this industry. If I had to offer advice I would say be confident in your own abilities, if you don’t know the answer or how to do something then ask, learn from every opportunity/challenge put in front of you, never think you are restricted in this industry because of your gender (because you are not) and don’t ever put up with any form of sexist comments, wolf whistling etc in the workplace because it is not acceptable on any level.
What plans do you have for the future?
With recent changes at work I am now the environmental manager for both Winstone Aggregates and Golden Bay Cement. My immediate plans for the future are to work closely with the team at GBC to better understand the needs of their business so that I can assist wherever I can.
If you weren’t in quarrying what other industry could you see yourself in?
This is something that I haven’t thought about for a very long time. I used to think I wanted to be a foreign diplomat, head of a tourism board or maybe a hotel manager. However, these days I would say that I would probably see myself transferring my environmental management skills to another large NZ company like The Warehouse or Air New Zealand … wouldn’t matter so much what they did … just that they had vision and scope to effect change. However, if money was no object then I would answer slightly differently. In this case you could find me working at the hospice shop in Orewa and volunteering at Wenderholm or Shakespeare Regional Park.
What future do you think extraction has here?
A sustained supply of minerals and aggregate is essential for the continued development of the district and region to enable people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural wellbeing. A sustained supply of minerals and aggregate will not only be required to provide for building, construction and roading projects associated with growth, but also to maintain and redevelop existing infrastructure so I think the future of extraction in New Zealand is positive.
However, one has to acknowledge that larger cities like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch will encounter and are already encountering issues of aggregate sterilisation. Urban expansion not only places demand on aggregates for construction, it also reduces access to key aggregate sources by either building over the top of them, or by protecting the land as key conservation/water catchment reserves. New Zealand, unlike Australia, does not adequately plan for aggregate supply. This leads to situations where key aggregates resources are sterilised.
What needs to be done to address that?
From a planning perspective the government needs to take a really hard look at the national planning framework and then how it is implemented by Regional and District Councils. It is not necessarily the act (RMA 1991) that is broken. Rather, it is the way it has been implemented around the country over the past 20 years or so. The basic premise of the RMA is to promote the sustainable management of our natural and physical resources. This is about managing things wisely so that there is enough left for the kids and grandkids. It is not about standing still and imposing environmental protection at all costs. However, nor does it provide the mandate to run roughshod over environmental values in the blind pursuit of development. I think it is true however that the RMA has become overly focused on environmental protection at the cost of essential development. The balancing exercise needs to be re-visited with input from all stakeholders.