A once-in-a-generation project is driving further growth for Fulton Hogan in the Manawatu.

Fulton Hogan’s $70 million RNZAF Base Ohakea project, 25km north of Palmerston North, is our largest ever Defence contract in New Zealand. Project Manager Reuben Saathof says it’s “a privilege” to be part of a legacy programme that will be a key part of New Zealand’s defence capability through to at least the middle of this century.

The project is part of the new infrastructure necessary for the 2023 arrival of four Poseidon P-8A aircraft (P8s) to replace the 1960s-era P-3K2 Orions. Fulton Hogan is building a heavy duty apron capable of handling four P8s – effectively militarised Boeing 737s – as well as the platform for their hangar and a new taxiway. The hardstand, alone, requires 2.6ha of 385mm thick ridged concrete pavement.

Reuben says the all-up $2.5 billion programme for the P8s is an enormous undertaking, and the new infrastructure and planes are just one part of it. Around 250 Air Force personnel will ultimately be involved in maintaining and operating the P8s.

“For the RNZAF it’s a bit like buying a car and, in the process, building the yard space and workshop for the car, the maintenance and parts department to keep it running, and training all the drivers, mechanics and support staff to operate it,” he says.

Key to Fulton Hogan’s part of the project is the support of multiple regions and divisions.

“This is really Fulton Hogan at its best, with the whole blue supply chain contributing,” Reuben says. “There’s a broad touch across a lot of regions, and it’s great to see the vertical integration of the business supporting project success.”

This includes Manawatu (utilities & drainage); Taranaki (utilities and drainage); Waikato (pavement construction and pavement Solutions); Canterbury (paving base course); Wellington (asphalt supply and placement); Civil North; Stahlton Precast; Dunedin (electrical and airfield lighting) and the joint venture Rangitikei Aggregates Quarry. A team of internal and subcontract staff of up to 100 is working on the project.

Fulton Hogan is also constructing support infrastructure for the project, including storm water, waste water, fire-fighting water, potable water, electronic communications, and compressed air and gas.

Another key task is rebuilding Taxiway Bravo. Originally built during World War II, the taxiway is being demolished and replaced with a new asphalt taxiway. The asphalt is being produced through a brand new mobile asphalt plant purchased by Fulton Hogan.

On completion in June 2022, this project will have played an important role in assisting to expand the existing Manawatu regional business, one of the identified high growth opportunity areas in New Zealand. Since starting in January 2020, it has already been joined by another in the region that’s bigger still – Te Ahu a Turanga: the Manawatū Tararua Highway.