Trail to The Ohakune Rail

Joe Vagana and Taware Nikau; two New Zealand trail blazers and legends of the international Rugby League world, both are equally dignified in legacy as cultural advocates and as directors of Pathways JV, they both bring strong experiences with backgrounds in sports and dynamic break through stories, the trail blazers partnership synergistic collection of their skills and experiences by chance of fate works bountifully, bringing them both into the public engineering industry intertwining with social and cultural development . Tawara Nikau also a director of Team One Training brings comprehensive training and leadership concepts to Pathways JV, which he has also applied to his life and professional environments successfully. Joe Vagana also director of Machine Lease brings skills to maintaining personable approaches in the professional environment. We set off on a monthly ritual road trip, traveling from Auckland to Ohakune’s Makatote Viaduct and get an update of a restoration project at a grand and scenic historical rail bridge, standing at 262 meters long and 79 meters high the rail infrastructure system was envisioned by John Rochfort, the construction for the original rail commenced in 1906 and was completed by 1908 making it a 108 years old.

Mt Ruepehu

A snap shot on the way to New Zealand’s Mt Ruapehu, the mountain casually fashioning snow on the mountain top in summer.

Pathways JV went into partnership with TBS Farnsworth and Kiwi Rail to continue restoring and preserving the significant structure. The programme for Pathways JV in this partnership runs from July 2014 to December 2016 with the following project overview:

– Hazardous rail environment with overhead 25kVa traction system and up to 6 freight and passenger train movements daily.

– We must always be vigilant about Health and Safety enforce strict environmental and consenting restraints

– Challenging location logistically and weather conditions with high winds, rain fall and humidity.

– Complex scaffold and pier access system required to access the 5 trestle piers, 5 trusses and 5 SPGspans for full encapsulation.

– Approx.12,000m² of lead based paint to be removed and protective coating applied too.

– cStructural steel strengthening of the 5 trusses and pier heads

– Design and build of a permanent walk way below the viaduct deck.

On this particular project at the Makatote Viaduct, Pathways JV works with Ngati Rangi the local Iwi.The following objectives will be achieved as Pathways JV collaborate with local sub-contractors and suppliers, Pathways JV is providing consistent work for 4-8 of the Ngati Rangi. A competencies register kept of local Ngati Rangi construction workers, the project provides the ability to implement a program to up skill Ngati Rangi Potential for full time employment post project completion.

On arrival we visit the site for a fast and brief overview of the project standpoint before an early morning in the itinerary for the next day. On top of being community focused, we take precaution in ensuring that procedures are highly achieved. We have continued an environmental preservation standard, established in 2006 this pier’s underpinning project commenced, almost one decade down the track we are ensuring the ecological standards are matched to keep New Zealand 100 percent pure and green.


There environmental measures put in place to monitor the ecology of the objectives for this particular project to protect the Makatote River and the surrounding environment and ecological life. The ecological protection parameters include; Macro-invertebrate sampling, endangered species Whio duck nesting, is monitored with surveying and weekly water clarity testing in the Makatote River, the brown and rainbow trout colonising the Makatote river directly below equitably share this protection programme. With an approx. 12,000m² of surface area to be blasted a protective coating is applied, a total of 7 tons of lead-based paint is to be removed. The procedures are all carefully and efficiently completed with an access of 77,000 man hours. Specialised PPE used from blast helmets to abseiling equipment. 330 ton of scaffold will be used in total, in conjunction with 2 bespoke pier access system gantries weighing 4tons each attached to the Viaduct, we have set construction loading restraints due to the capacity of the foundations and superstructure of the viaduct. The viaduct will be progressively shrink-wrapped as the lead-based paint is removed, 200 tons of semi-precious garnet stone will be used as a resource for the blasting paint removal. With the clear layout of the protection goals we have are successfully on track, overcoming obstacles with strategic solutions the project is aimed to be completed in 2016.

All the structural restoration required means precision is mandatory in the engineering workmanship which we apply. Pathways JV have handpicked and highly trained competent and determined staff to do the job. A common routine of an early morning for many of our engineers we wake up at 6:00 am following arrival day, Joe, Tawera and myself set out for the Tool Box a site induction of what the day’s goals are, which occurs before the usual sequencing of a day at the site. After the Tool Box, Pathways JV holds a follow up meeting with our Ohakune based team members working on the project. Below is a slide of the Pathways JVs boys on site.



By David Tsai


Photos by David Tsai DTCM