20th Annual Waka Kotahi and NZIHT Conference

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Engineers and roading specialists from across the country came together this month for the 20th Annual Waka Kotahi and NZIHT conference in Napier. This year’s theme was Sustainability Through Innovation, with speakers bringing fresh ideas, projects and papers for discussion over the three days.

Around 70 presenters addressed the conference presenting on a variety of roading and transport topics, from road worker safety and developing road technologies, to working with customer insights and AI. Presenters spoke to the theme of the conference with an eye to the future and focus on sustainability and innovation. 

International guest speakers represented the top technical specialists from across the world, including Tony Aloisio and Dr Scott Taylor of VicRoads in Australia, Dr John D’Angelo from the United States and Dr John Read from United Kingdom.

Waka Kotahi Chief Executive Nicole Rosie asked the questions: ‘How do we achieve sustainability of our transport system?’ and ‘How do we reduce our impact on the climate?’.

“At Waka Kotahi we have a multipronged approach recognising the complexity of this challenge,” she said. “There’s a growing focus on walking, cycling, public transport, rail, coastal shipping and micromobility.”

Nicole also spoke about positive disruption – an idea that arose throughout the conference.

“[This disruption] is accelerating the move from traditional, functional transport investment to system and outcome-led investment supported by innovation and continuous improvement.”

She reinforced the value of collaboration and working together with others in industry, saying no player in the system can make this change on their own.

“At Waka Kotahi we have worked hard over the last year to define our role in the transport system, this includes enabling and accelerating the work of others and we see a really key role for our private sector partners who may well lead in innovating in many of these spaces.”

NZIHT Director Kyle Hall said it was great to be able to go ahead with the event after Covid side-tracked plans to deliver the conference last year.

“The annual conference is a great opportunity to get the best minds in roading technology and engineering together to share ideas, best practices and developments.

“This event is something that New Zealand’s roading experts look forward to each year, and it’s a valuable way for NZIHT to connect with our colleagues at Waka Kotahi and other key stakeholders in our industry.”

Sir John Kirwan closed the event on Wednesday with a session on mental wellbeing, with a specific focus on maintaining mental health in the workplace.

“Kirwan’s session started some pretty valuable conversations around the room about work life balance, mental wellness, and looking after yourself and your colleagues in what can be a high-pressure work environment,” Kyle said.

“After three days of insightful and often technical presentations on all things roading, it was an opportunity to change up the tone and give delegates some thought-provoking messages to take away and consider.”

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