Putting safety first on major infrastructure site

benstevens Our People, Ultimit / Women in Infrastructure

“When I look back at this project in ten years or so, it will be pretty cool to say ‘I was a part of making that happen’.”

Angel Duvenage, 22, is proud of the work she’s doing as a health and safety environmental coordinator for Link Alliance, which is constructing Auckland’s City Rail Link, New Zealand’s largest transport infrastructure project.

Angel is based at Link Alliance’s Mt Eden site, where it is redeveloping the station there. From Mt Eden, the City Rail Link connects with the city’s Western rail line. It is also where the Dame Whina Cooper tunnel boring machine is boring the second of two tunnels towards the project’s Aotea construction site in central Auckland.  

“I’ve lived in Auckland my whole life, so it’s pretty amazing to be part of something like this,” Angel says.

She came into her current role about two years ago through a mix of previous experience in the construction sector and goodwill. 

“I had a former boss who saw something in me I couldn’t see.”

Angel has cemented her position through training, having completed a New Zealand Certificate in Workplace Health and Safety Practice (Level 3). Her Connexis Customer Service Account Vanessa Veart-Smith describes Angel as a “dream trainee” who also had great feedback on the high standard of her work from the Assessor.

She started working on main entrance gate at the Mt Eden site, which she says gave her great exposure to the logistics of how the project operates.

“You’re really in the middle of everything when you’re on the gate. You’re exposed to everything from traffic operations and mobile plant operations, to communications management and site planning.”

That knowledge and insight proved a helpful platform when Angel was then offered her current role, that combines health and safety with environmental protection (including the management of water and waste).

One of the things Angel loves most about her job is that no two days are the same.

“Currently I’m involved in Covid management onsite so my mornings are about that – managing RATs, talking to sub-contractors, and following up with staff who are at home isolating and making sure they’re OK.

“Every day is completely different; you never know quite what each day will bring,” she says.

Angel also loves that she’s learning something new every day, whether it’s about site operation, regulations or legislation. She advises anyone considering a similar role to “make sure you get out onsite and ask questions.”

She says it’s out in the field “where you really learn”.

It also means you start to build relationships with site crews, earning their respect and trust. 

“That is crucial to being able to do the job. If they don’t trust you, they’re not going to speak to you about health and safety matters,” Angel says.

Angel is committed to keeping up her training and is considering the best path to continue developing her health and safety knowledge. She hopes to finish at Mt Eden as a health and safety adviser, but in the meantime, she’s also considering taking Tongan language classes to help her interactions with the diverse workforce onsite.

“Just being able to say ‘hello’ or ‘how are you?’ in someone’s language is really helpful in having people open up and trust you,” she says.

“I have to feel like I’m always learning, or I start to lose interest. And I think it’s really important to keep listening to other people and to keep learning. If you get stuck always doing things one way, I think it would be hard to succeed in this environment.”

Facts about the City Rail Link Mt Eden site:

  • Due to re-open 2024
  • At its peak, 500 people are working on site
  • The Dame Whina Cooper TBM can travel up to 32m a day moving 1500 tonne of spoil
  • From Mt Eden, the twin tunnels will run 1.6km to Aotea in central  Auckland