Success Stories 29 May 2020
Andrew Wilson has had a career spanning more than 40 years, has worked and travelled extensively and has overseen a number of infrastructure development projects throughout the Asia Pacific region. He has retired as the International Director of Beca, New Zealand's leading engineering and related consultancy services organisation, specialising in the design and management of projects throughout New Zealand, Australia and the Asia Pacific region.
In this exclusive Q & A, Andrew highlights how he led a team during two global crisis, what makes PCF successful and mitigating the effects of climate change in the Pacific.
Talofa Andrew thank you for your time given the circumstances with COVID-19. I understand that as your time as Director of Beca International, you played an active role in getting the New Zealand economy back on its feet from the Global Financial Crisis in 2007 – 2008.
Can you share how you were able to remain resilient during those times so that it may influence our current business leaders who are leading the economic recovery from COVID-19?
While I was in Beca we were building food factories in Guangzhou in the south of China during the SARS pandemic which was around 2000. We kept operating and managed the risks by following the proper health and safety procedures. I don’t think the SARS was as strong as COVID-19 but certainly no one caught it which I think is a success story.
Then in 2007 – 2008, we were working in the Middle East where I was running the company from at the time. We were struggling there as things were shutting down, clients weren’t paying us, so we ended up closing our office, finished off our projects where we were able and we did get paid fairly well for most of our projects.
However, we had to bring our staff out and that’s part of the difficulties of working in an International business – you can’t always continue in places when times get hard. From there, we managed our risks accordingly; closed our office, sent staff home and continued to work in other places. After the financial crisis things picked up in New Zealand and the business kept going in other places around the world.
That is what we did, we managed the risks and got through it.
As we slowly readjust back to our normal routine, what lessons can we learn from this global pandemic?
A lot of people I know in my demographic have learnt to slow down a bit and catch up on things that they didn’t have time to do. As we come out of it, people may stay that way a bit – to not travel so much and do so many other things. Enjoy a little more of what they’ve got.
As the current Deputy Chair of the PCF Board, what achievements of this organisation are you most proud of?
I’m in my seventh year now at PCF, one I would say is the recruitment of the three CEOs that we’ve had. I had the pleasure of recruiting Mac Leauanae, Craig Strong and then of course Don Mann. In all three people, we recruited good people and strong leaders who helped raised the profile and who did a lot for PCF. From the beginning when I had just joined PCF we recruited Mac, and we have now seen Mac go on to do bigger things and is doing amazing in his current role.
Through Craig we helped rebuild PCF with a strong team and a strong strategy. PCF is well set to keep moving in the future with the people we’ve now got. Because these CEO’s have been successful at PCF, people see them and want to hire them to look after their organisation.
Part of the difficulty with success is that people see us and want to share in that success. In terms of that, it’s put PCF in a good position for the future and I feel good about that.
From your perspective, why is it important to have organisations like PCF to promote regional cooperation?
PCF is well placed as they sit near MFAT but it also has private sector connections. We have links with all Pacific and private sector organisations, we’re able to join the dots and help the communities that we work with; whether that’s with students, business leaders in the Pacific. We help grow the knowledge and join people up in the Pacific through the workshops, events and conferences that we do and we look forward to doing more of that in the future.
As the Chair of the New Zealand PNG Business Council, what milestones have you seen come from the NZ and PNG relationship?
As Chair of NZPNGBC, but having been a member for over 10 years – in fact, BECA was one of the founding members over 25 years ago. In terms of milestones, the main thing was being with former Minister Murray McCully. Under his leadership we travelled to PNG to support NZ companies there which we still do today.
PNG is currently in a difficult position with oil and gas prices down, their government revenues are down, in the past they’ve had a lot of political difficulties, however we were fortunate to meet the new PNG Prime Minister, Mr. Marape along with other ministers when they came to New Zealand for a visit in February 2020
I guess the achievements that I would think to be able to continue to represent NZ businesses to the PNG government and to keep reminding them that we’re here and that we’re open for business.
As we turn to the Pacific region, what examples of public/private partnerships have you seen effectively address climate change?
I am quite passionate about climate change and what we can do about it, what we know is that New Zealand and the Pacific are the recipients of larger countries’ emissions.
I was fortunate to be on one of the Pacific missions back with Minister McCully at the time and Paula Bennett who was the Minister for Climate Change. We travelled with representatives from the EU and other people on a very climate change-focused mission and went to Tuvalu and Kiribati amongst others.
Kiribati and Tuvalu are the prime examples of the results of global climate change and how it affects the Pacific. Talking to the leaders in both countries, they agreed that its up to NZ to make a noise globally on behalf of the Pacific and I guess that’s how I see our role, that we can show leadership in reducing emissions and we can also show leadership by putting forward the cases for Pacific people.
Through my former company, we did many climate change related projects in Tuvalu. We set up solar stations and solar power generation units in government buildings, whereas in Kiribati we helped build seawalls and reclamation projects to try mitigate the effects of climate change.
Engineers can help a lot with climate change, certainly with solar generation – we did a lot of that in the outer islands in the Cook Islands and many in the remote places in the Pacific, all funded by New Zealand government. There are still reclamation projects going on in Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands.
Things can be helped a little along the way to ease the burden of climate change.
What are your thoughts on the increase of the aid budget towards the Pacific?
I think it’s great but it’s the effectiveness of that aid that needs to be targeted – you’ve got to achieve things with it.
NZ is seen as one of the most effective donors in the Pacific and more thought is given to what’s been done with that money and what’s been achieved whether that’s supporting women in business or education projects, supporting agricultural projects or whether that’s supporting engineering work on the ground in these countries.
So much can be done but it’s got to be done effectively.
Image: Andrew Wilson
Second image: Andrew (standing far right) with (L-R) PNG Vice Minister for National Planning and Member for Tawae-Siassi Hon. Dr Kobby Bomareo, PCF Chief Executive Don Mann, Code Avengers Chief Operating Officer Ray Allen, PNG PM Hon James Marape, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Board Trustee Mr. Tama Davis, NZ Minister for Māori Development Hon Nanaia Mahuta.