Soldiers who worked on the highway project

New Zealand military gaining experience at Te Ahu a Turanga, taking part in the construction of the Manawatu Tararua Highway

The New Zealand Army’s military contingent is gaining advanced engineering skills, usually outside its deployment, by taking part in the construction of a new highway between Ashhurst and Woodville.

A partnership between the New Zealand Defence Force and Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatu Tararua Highway Alliance has given soldiers the opportunity to participate in the replacement of the Manawatu Gorge Road surface.

Waka Kotahi commissioned the alliance to construct the 11.5km Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway, a four-lane road.

Troop commander of the 2nd Engineer Regiment, 25th Engineer Support Squadron, Lt. Blair Jones said the soldiers will benefit from the project because the soldiers have never worked on this scale before, it will give them the right skills to implement them in the field, during combat or after action, when they need to rebuild the supply and movement infrastructure of the troops.

While Army engineers often used heavy equipment to build or overcome obstacles to keep troops and equipment moving, working on a project on this scale doesn’t happen often.

“Our soldiers learn more about what is involved in an infrastructure project of this scale. They will also learn how to use updated and new factory equipment that uses modern GPS tracking systems to track plant movement, dig depth and boundaries.”

Jones said the project provided a work experience where plant operators could gather practical evidence and prove their competence, which could contribute to a number of national civil engineering certifications.

It also allowed soldiers access to the industry’s leading expert civil engineers, who were more than willing to share their knowledge.

“There will be two to three soldiers on site for a six-week shift, which will continue until the end of the project,” said Jones.

Te Ahu a Turanga Alliance project director Tony Adams said the soldiers working on the site are quick to get into production and have become an integral part of the excavation team.

“These soldiers are very capable professionals, so we are using their training and experience to help build the highway. To date, we have enlisted 18 soldiers and we look forward to their continued contribution to this vital piece of infrastructure.”

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