Omar Seychell

Omar Seychell

Abstract | Western Belfast Bypass, South Island NZ: Aquatic ecology aspects and sharing of lessons learned - A contractor's perspective

The Western Belfast Bypass (WBB) is a new four-lane, 5km stretch of highway. Bypassing Belfast, it extends the Christchurch Northern Motorway and connects into State Highway 1 Johns Road, west of The Groynes entrance. Works commenced in May 2015 and were completed in October 2017. Seven permanently wetted waterbodies were either in the path of, or directly adjacent to, the WBB alignment.

During the course of the project, the project team developed a strong working relationship with the Project Aquatic Ecologist and we were able to work through a number of project delivery challenges (including project timeframes and lack of awareness and appreciation for aquatic ecology habitats) to ensure that ecological outcomes were considered, planned for and managed appropriately.

As part of the works, over 3000 fish were salvaged and released, including Longfin eels, Shortfin eels, Inanga species, Giant bully and Common bully species. Habitat monitoring was also a stipulation in the management plan, with all constructed channels to be assessed to ensure they present habitat of equal or better quality than the channels they have replaced. Ensuring early engagement with the aquatic ecologist, and acceptance of base line data by all parties involved ensured that from a contractor’s perspective, such monitoring requirements were achievable.

Development of training aids, including posters and fact sheets, on-site training sessions, and the use of emergency fish salvage kits were all contractor wins arising from lessons learned and a greater appreciation and understanding of environmental risk when working in or near our waterways. WBB helped shape Fulton Hogan in its drive to deliver project wins for our client, beyond compliance.

The knowledge gained on this project, is now being shared across other projects (including with other contractors), to ensure Aquatic ecology aspects are considered and planned for appropriately.

Bio | Omar Seychell

Omar is a Certified Environmental Practitioner and has over 20 years’ experience in a wide range of environmental disciplines, from coordinating local community planting programmes in a local Government setting, to managing environmental effects on military training grounds in World Heritage listed sites in Australia for the Department of Defence.

In 2012, Omar made the move to New Zealand and currently works for Fulton Hogan as the National Environmental Manager for the NZ Construction arm of the business. Omar has been involved in a number of major projects, including the SCIRT Earthquake Rebuild Programme, Central Plains Water Irrigation Scheme and the Western Belfast Bypass.