Connecting New Zealand

Exceptional young leaders honoured at Z People Awards

01 Sep 2023

Gifted young leaders and civil construction workers with outstanding dedication to personal development were recognised at the 2023 Z People Awards in Auckland this afternoon.

Held at the Due Drop Events Centre in Auckland during The Civil Contractors Conference, the awards celebrated the stars of New Zealand’s civil infrastructure construction industry in front of a crowd of hundreds of their peers.

Ryan Thom of Utilities Infrastructure was crowned the Z Energy Emerging Leader, an award which recognises individuals making a mark in the industry with their leadership skills and personal attributes. 

After joining Utilities Infrastructure three years ago as a junior project manager, Mr Thom is now a Christchurch-based project manager trusted with running the two largest projects the company has secured over the last year.

The judges, CCNZ President Bailey Gair and Z Energy’s Antony Chan, commended Mr Thom’s efforts, saying he was an emerging leader with unlimited potential and a relentless work ethic.

“He is a standout nominee with a vast array of leadership qualities which have earned him the opportunity to lead complex, multi-million-dollar projects.”

Jacob Walmsley of Brian Perry Civil won the Z Energy Personal Improvement Award, which recognises outstanding devotion to personal professional development and the development of peers.   

During his eight years at Brian Perry Civil, Mr Walmsley has gone from hammer hand to project engineer, completing a Diploma in Civil Engineering in the process, and is currently managing the $7m Taranaki Street Pump Station project in Wellington.

The judges were impressed by the way Mr Walmsley started at the bottom and worked his way up, completing over 30 training courses and finishing his Diploma a straight A student, all while working full time.

“Jacob’s success in his own personal journey has led to him being highly regarded amongst his peers… a much-deserved recipient of this year’s personal improvement award,” the judges noted.

The winners each walked away with a one-of-a-kind personalised trophy crafted by Bruce Winter and $1,000. Emerging Leader award recipient Mr Thom received the ‘Dr Dave Memorial Trophy’ – named to commemorate Dr Dave Hutchison, who served as Chief Engineer at Downer for many years and was renowned for his work developing young leaders.

The Z Energy People Awards also recognised highly commended individuals: Bariz Shah of Brian Perry Civil in the Emerging Leader category for his brave leadership style and amazing journey from refugee in Pakistan to emerging industry star, and Johnny Overend of HEB Construction in the Personal Improvement category for dedication to the quality of his work.

Civil Contractors New Zealand Chief Executive Alan Pollard said the award recipients were the cream of the industry’s crop and he was pleased their exceptional efforts and dedication were being recognised in such a prestigious way.

“The individuals and companies recognised in these awards have set benchmarks for the rest of the industry to aspire to. Congratulations to them all for raising the bar with their outstanding achievements.” Z Energy Customer Manager for SME and Partner Relationships Antony Chan agreed and said the awards shone a spotlight on some of the future stars of the industry and their impressive talent.

“It’s fantastic to see young high achievers coming through the ranks and companies with the vision to equip their staff with the skills required to tackle the challenges of the future.”

Read about the winners and finalists in this year's Awards Book>>

Award recipients: Z Energy People Awards 2023

Emerging Leader Award

Winner: Ryan Thom of Utilities Infrastructure
The Z Energy Emerging Leader Award is given to people under the age of 30 who have already made their mark by impressing their peers and employers with their innovative approach, personal attributes and leadership abilities.

After joining Utilities Infrastructure three years ago as a junior project manager, Ryan Thom is now a project manager trusted with running the two largest projects the company has secured in the last year.

Mr Thom demonstrated early promise when he entered the industry as a graduate engineer in 2019 with Brian Perry Civil and was quickly given responsibility for running projects around the South Island.

He is known for delivering successful outcomes, encouraging personal growth in the people he leads and the rapid career growth he has achieved in a short space of time.

Highly commended: Bariz Shah of Brian Perry Civil
Bariz Shah migrated to New Zealand in 2001 after living as a refugee in Pakistan for several years. After finding his feet in a new country he went on to graduate from the University of Canterbury with a BE (Hons) in Civil Engineering and a Diploma in Global Humanitarian Engineering.

Mr Shah is known as a leader who is confident in voicing his opinions and asking hard questions when no one else wants to, he empowers team members to speak up to improve the culture around safety and well-being.

He has been a part of the Fletcher Construction Graduate Programme since February 2022, based at Auckland Airport, where he plays an important part in helping Brian Perry Civil deliver pavement and remedial work projects.

Z People Personal Improvement Award

Winner: Jacob Walmsley of Brian Perry Civil

The Z Energy Personal Improvement Award recognises how an individual has committed themselves to ongoing training and development to better themselves and benefit their employers.

Jacob Walmsley realised early on that civil construction was the career for him, starting off labouring on the Majestic Centre Strengthening project at the age of 18. Walmsley’s foreman recognised his enthusiasm and recommended he undertake an engineering cadetship.

Mr Walmsley progressed to Assistant Engineer while completing a Diploma in Civil Engineering, at the same time picking up practical skills working onsite and maintaining a straight A record.

Over eight years at Brian Perry Civil he has gone from hammer hand to project engineer, managing BPC’s $7 million Taranaki Street Pump Station project in Wellington. With his character, drive and passion for the industry he has the capability to progress from a project management role into senior leadership.
Highly commended: Johnny Overend of HEB Construction

Johnny Overend has been with HEB construction for 12 years, starting out in the civil space with BG Contracting as a truck driver and climbing the career ladder to become a foreman. He then completed a National Certificate in Drainlaying qualification to expand his skill set.

Mr Overend believes in doing his job and doing it properly, and places value in teaching and mentoring the younger generation, encouraging them to enrol in formal qualifications and supporting them along their learning journey.




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