Empowering Rural Communities: Ascon's Approach to SH 1 Mangamuka Gorge

The State Highway 1 (SH1) repair programme was initiated to address 15 significant landslides along the Mangamuka Gorge.   

Ascon was engaged as a subcontractor for Waka Kotahi to contribute to this significant project. 

Recognising the importance of SH1 for connecting communities on either side of Mangamuka Gorge, efforts are being made to collaborate with hapū and iwi to achieve a better project outcome. 

Recognising the importance of local engagement 

At Ascon, we are a whānau-owned business with deep connections to Māori values. We recognise the significance of involving local Māori communities in the decision-making processes and construction activities, particularly in rural regions.  

Through our experience, we have witnessed the untapped potential in these rural communities. Rich in knowledge, skills, and possessing a deep understanding of the land and environment, these areas bring invaluable perspectives and unique insights to our projects. We actively strive to debunk misconceptions by showcasing the talent and capabilities inherent in these diverse communities. 

We take pride in upskilling rural communities. Upskilling not only provides job opportunities and boosts local economies but also creates a sense of pride and accomplishment in individuals, further solidifying their connection with their community and the land. 

Training and development 

This project is has been divided into two areas: north of a summit and south of the summit.  

Working as a collective, our team is working to complete the works on the south of the summit. 

Ascon acted as facilitator for our client, engaging with locals from the area by providing them with work experience and training opportunities. The locals we initially brought on to the project had little to no construction industry experience.  

The project's remoteness, coupled with several road closures, posed significant challenges, particularly when it came to coordinating the completion of a traffic controller course for these individuals.However, Ascon was able to overcome this challenge and source a solution that resulted in these individuals getting their certifications.   

For one individual in particular, this project proved to be life-changing. Initially, she was experiencing hardships due to a lack of work experience and qualifications. She was then given the opportunity to work on the Mangamuka Gorge project, and she has since received her traffic controller certification and Wheels Tracks and Rollers certification. 

Subsequently, she has excelled on site, resulting in her receiving several safety awards. As a result of being given the opportunity to learn and grow, she has been equipped with qualifications and experience that impact will positively impact her and her whānau in the long-term.   

Embracing Māori values on the Mangamuka Gorge project 

At Ascon, our ethos is deeply embedded in the principles of Te Ao Māori.  

Central to our philosophy is Whakawhanaungatanga, the concept that emphasises nurturing and cultivating close-knit relationships. 

Our value is not solely focused on infrastructure; rather, we consider people to be our most valuable asset. We are dedicated to empowering individuals - fostering their professional abilities, inspiring personal growth, promoting a positive mindset, nurturing health, and their wairua, their spirit. 

During the SH1 repairs programme, we intertwined this ideology with our work, leveraging our local connections to engage intimately with the community. We brought new opportunities to the forefront and equip individuals with the resources and skills needed for sustainable personal and professional growth.  

This empowerment eventually ripples out, bringing long-term benefits to our communities.