Te Mato Vai work sub-standard?

Wednesday October 29, 2014 Written by Published in Economy
John Batty. 14102808 John Batty. 14102808

Ring mains work not up to international
standards: former TMV project engineer

The quality of work undertaken in the on-going replacement of Rarotonga’s aged ring mains is falling below internationally accepted standards, says a former engineer who worked on the project.
As a Material Quality Specialist, John Batty performed duties as a supervising engineer, overseeing work on the $23.1 million project – which is being led by the Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) and part of the $60 million Te Mato Vai water infrastructure project.
Batty was employed by KEW Consult Limited –the company selected by government to manage the entire Te Mato Vai project.
During his contract with KEW, Batty was tasked with overseeing quality assurance on the pipe laying work being carried out by the CCECC – a job he says he was prevented in doing adequately as he was not allowed to directly observe the testing of pipe joints, having instead to rely on photos and graphs to assess the work.
“The main issue was that I was finding the CCECC construction practices difficult to sign off as the quality was not what should have been expected from an international engineering and construction company,” Batty wrote in an email, after he was approached by CINews.
“What I found the most difficult was the inconsistency of CCECC in terms of construction standards and the disconnect between their management team and their construction teams,” he said.
Because he insisted on obtaining access to observe testing first-hand, Batty said his relationship with the CCECC suffered, which created further issues between the project’s managers and the Chinese contractor.
This is acknowledged in a leaked email obtained by CINews, which was sent from a CCECC official who is believed to have written to at least two government officials.
Responding to a July CINews story on earlier quality issues, the CCECC official contested the issuing of two work-stop orders issued by KEW, and is alleged to have wrote “... the supervising engineer is the major issue between us and we insist that we will not work with the same supervising engineers in the future no matter if they are specialists or not.”
Commenting on the friction between the different sides, KEW’s Project Manager Latu Kupa said it is not uncommon for disputes to arise between the contractors carrying out the work and supervisors.
“John wanted a more hands-on approach to inspecting the work, but the contractors felt their contractual obligations could be met by supplying photographs and data for evaluation,” he wrote in an email.
Kupa said the CCECC’s contract for the ring mains work was between them and the Cook Islands Government, and as part of the original plans, supervision work was to be carried out by the government, however “staffing shortages” saw the task passed on to KEW.
The change appears to have led to CCECC’s issues with Batty and KEW.
“Hiccups and tensions are not uncommon on big jobs like this and misunderstandings can occur too, but we at KEW will continue to insist that the highest and required standards are met in the delivery of the work,” he said.
As for Batty’s work, Kupa described him as “a highly respected and valued member of our team”.
“John Batty took his job very seriously and KEW had no hesitation in supporting his insistence on requiring standards accepted in New Zealand and Australia to be adhered to on this project,” he said.
Despite what may be the best intentions of the project’s various stakeholders, Batty said he has reason to believe that the required New Zealand and Australian standards as set out in the Te Mato Vai Master Plan are not being met - based on his assessment of the construction work undertaken thus far.
And taking into account those observations, he said the ring mains could have a shorter-than-expected life span, along with possible leaking at random joints due to poor welding.
Kupa has since confirmed that a number of tests – including joint and pressure tests - have been undertaken on completed work.
Of eight tests carried out, seven have passed with one fail. CCECC is disputing the failed test and the results have been forwarded to a third party for analysis.
Reflecting on his time working on the project, Batty – who says he has nearly two decades of experience in the field - acknowledges he may have been heavy-handed at times in his dealings with the CCECC, causing concern within “political circles”.
Regardless, he insists he had the best interests of the project and Cook Islanders over the course of his contract.
“I have given a great deal of though to this since back in NZ, and if I had my time again I wouldn’t do anything differently as I had my professional integrity at stake, and it is a small world in the world of engineering,” he said.
“...despite the challenges I really enjoyed working in Rarotonga and would have been happy to invest in more time assisting CCECC in getting the quality outcome that everyone is looking for.”

2 comments

  • Comment Link  Tereroa Tei Tuesday, 04 November 2014 23:37 posted by Tereroa Tei

    Unbelievable! and I am so happy that John Batty brought this out to light so people especially Cook Islanders overseas and locally know what is really going on. Sad to see a New Zealand Engineer who knows what he's doing being thrown around just because the Chinese company do not approve of his work. Come on people this is our water pipes we talking about if it doesn't meet international standards, there must be something wrong.
    All I can see is the Government is blind and greedy $23.1 million is a lot and make it worse "Who is paying this money back? It isn't free !we taxpayers of this country and New Zealand because part of this is NZ AID. We working our guts out to pay it back and even our kids. Anyway, I can go on but my best bet is this project may look good today but it wont last there's some dodgy business going on.

  • Comment Link John Bataillard Saturday, 01 November 2014 02:16 posted by John Bataillard

    It is hard to believe for someone appointed by Government to act on it behalf to supervise such a major project not being allowed by the Contractors to personally view in person the manner they are carrying out the work. It is good to see the Supervisor Batty stop the work if it doesn't meet the required standard. Better do it now than later. We don't want the Islands new water system to end up like the Court house where it had leaks and other issues.

    Batty is doing the Cook Islands people especially those in Rarotonga a big favour in ensuring the project is done properly and according to the international level required. It is common for people like Batty to be heavy handed when the workers are not doing their work properly. That is what we expect Batty and his Company to do in this project on behalf of our people.

    Meitaki maata!

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