LUKE REEVES

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25 June 2021

Having grown up on a mushroom farm in the Waikato, Luke Reeves has returned to the region to play a major role in creating a world-class facility for Happy Valley Nutrition Limited. We caught up with him to understand where he’s come from, what excites him most about the project and the opportunities that it offers.

“Having received my Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) from the University of Canterbury I went straight into working with Waka Kotahi (formally NZ Transport Agency) as a graduate Project Manager and then moved to Jacobs. When my wife was hired by Westland Milk Products on the West Coast, I wanted to become part of that culture and community and entered into the 24/7 world of the dairy industry. I took on the Senior Projects Manager role for 24 months, creating a Projects team and delivering their capital plan across a number of significant projects. On one of these I was lucky enough to meet Greg Wood, when the Capital Project Manager role at Happy Valley Nutrition Limited became available, I jumped at the chance to work with him again and continue in the dairy industry.

“Within this role, I’m responsible for the build of the facility and ensuring it is delivered to design, on-time and on-budget. We began earthworks in December 2020 and anticipate having milk in the plant by August 2023. We have achieved a lot during 2020, In a way COVID-19 lockdowns were advantageous providing us an opportunity to challenge, innovate, and further develop the concept to carve out gains in the project timeline and budget.

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Luke Reeves, Capital Projects Manager

“It’s exciting to be involved in a new project, read a new set of plans and work on implementing new technology to deliver this world-class dairy facility. We are doing ground-breaking work in all aspects of this project. It is incredibly satisfying to be able to influence and enable our team and partners to deliver an outcome that we’re all going to be incredibly proud of.”

When asked about bringing the community along for the journey Luke’s eyes light up, “People just want to know what’s happening, and I really enjoy engaging with them on a regular basis to provide updates, answer questions and set the scene for what is coming.”

The ripple effect of this project to the local Otorohonga community can only be positive and the long-term opportunities of sustainable employment. “One of our criteria for the earthworks phase was to use local subcontractors and provide the local community with as many opportunities as possible” says Luke, “As an example, our earthworks subcontractor is from Hamilton and local Otorohanga based subcontractors have been onsite since day one.”

Though focused on delivering a highly automated plant, there is still a large workforce required to cover all shifts and the 24/7 operations. “We’re anticipating a long lead time to bring people on and upskill over the coming years. Once milk arrives, we want our people ingrained and familiar with the facility and for them to take ownership and pride in what we’ve created.”

Additionally, Luke points out that there’s employment opportunities surrounding the factory from laundry, security through to hospitality. “With up to 300 plus contractors in town to build the facility that’s a lot of mince pies to be eaten, beds to find and opportunities created.”

“The clean, green image of New Zealand is fundamental to our success and we’re focused on creating a facility that embraces this as much as possible with a recycling and environmental focus which includes building a large solar array installation. Ideally we’re looking to create a very flexible, green, sustainable and robust facility and product that appeals to our customers demand.”

Looking ahead Luke says he’s eager to see the first milk tanker arrive at the plant, but the journey is what excites him most and celebrating the milestones along the way with the project team and community.

“This project really has it all from a civil engineering point of view: earthworks, road realignment, concrete dryer tower, large warehouse, stainless steel as far as the eye can see, immense landscaping, wetland and irrigation on our farms. I don’t think I’ll ever move out of the dairy industry – I’m hooked!”