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Innovative Consultancy Wins Trade NZ Export Award

Innovative Consultancy Wins Trade New Zealand Export Award

New Zealand-based engineering, planning and architecture consultancy Opus International Consultants has won a Trade New Zealand Export Award for boosting annual exports from $9.5 million in 1999 to $28.8 million in 2001.

(Media are invited to attend the Opus Export Award presentation by the Minister for Trade Negotiations, the Hon. Jim Sutton, at the Harbour View Lounge, Level 24, Majestic Centre, Wellington, on Wednesday 30 January at 5.30pm. The Trade New Zealand Export Awards are sponsored by DHL Worldwide Express.)

General Manager International David Bunting says the large jump in exports is largely the result of Opus winning several long-term road asset management contracts in the UK, Australia and Malaysia. He says those contracts have enabled Opus to establish permanent offices in those countries and expand its business into other areas.

Employing over 1200 staff around the world and with its head office in Wellington, Opus is one of New Zealand’s largest multi-disciplinary consultancies. The privately owned company evolved out of a State Owned Enterprise which had in turn evolved from the Ministry of Works & Development.

Engineering consultancy accounts for about 90% of Opus’ export business, with road asset management a large portion of that. The company is capitalising on a growing awareness around the world of the need for highway authorities to sustain the value of their asset through investment in managed maintenance.

Mr Bunting says New Zealand is recognised for its world-class expertise in highways and road asset management – as the first country to deregulate this business - and Opus is the New Zealand market leader in this sector. The company leverages off those two key success factors to build its international business, targeting markets where maintenance of roading systems is contracted out to the private sector.

Major export markets are currently the UK, Malaysia, Australia and Asia. Mr Bunting says its next focus will be the USA, where the highway system has suffered years of neglect.

“Until fairly recently there’s been a lack of appreciation in the USA of the value of their highway asset, which is deteriorating - I think the glamour has been in building new things.

“Like New Zealand, local authorities in the USA are now required to value and depreciate assets such as roads and put money aside for maintenance and upgrades. This is a huge shift that’s only just taking place.

“With this new recognition there’s going to be a huge effort on maintenance and in the next 3-4 years this market could really boom for Opus.”

While long-term contracts have boosted Opus’ export earnings, Mr Bunting says tendering for those contracts requires a large investment of time – up to six months in the case of a recent Western Australian contract. Preparation included a team of engineers travelling every inch of 4500 kilometers of highway to measure its condition.

Trade New Zealand Account Manager Graham Smeaton says the provision of highway asset management services has evolved quite radically over recent years and Opus has been at the forefront of developing new, innovative systems and technology in order to provide enhanced services for its clients and road users.

“Opus’ focus on innovation and its long history and expertise in New Zealand gives the company a large competitive edge internationally. It knows how to maintain roads within tight budgets and it is now successfully marketing those processes and systems offshore.”

David Bunting says Opus has also won a number of high profile rail projects. Earlier this month it secured a seven-year contract with UK partners to manage the upgrade of the stations on the London Underground’s Piccadilly Line. Other rail successes include designing and managing projects on the underground railway system from downtown Hong Kong to the region’s new airport; and in New Zealand, obtaining the contract for the structural, mechanical and electrical engineering design of the underground station for Auckland’s Britomart Complex.

New Zealand will always be a priority market for Opus and is the base from which the company is building its international business. Exports currently account for 25% of annual turnover with Opus aiming to increase that to 50% in the next five years.

Developing strong client relationships is a key factor in Opus’ export success. Mr Bunting says it’s essential clients have confidence that Opus can deliver what it says it will, in particular in road asset management contracts where high quality road user service and safety issues are paramount. Local offices enable the company to maintain regular contact with clients on a day-to-day basis.

Opus’ strategy is to enter into joint ventures with local partners. This gives Opus a ‘local face’, which Mr Bunting says helps overcomes a reluctance in some markets to award contracts to a foreign company.

“Our JV partners are usually another consultancy or physical operator who is seen as a local firm that speaks the same language as our client. These partners also provide us with additional resource and an understanding of the processes and regulations in the market.” Mr Bunting says Opus is also winning Asian Development Bank and World Bank contracts to provide road asset management consultancy in developing countries. Because of its history of corporatisation and privatisation, Opus is also being asked to provide institutional reform services in tandem with its core services – a lucrative ‘extra’ for this successful operator.


About the Trade New Zealand Export Awards:

The Trade New Zealand Export Awards, sponsored by DHL Worldwide Express, recognise outstanding achievement and growth by New Zealand exporters in international markets. Winners become contenders for the Supreme Exporter of the Year Award, announced at the annual dinner in May 2002.

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