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A steady pair of hands on Municipal Rebuild

After over five years of working in the dust, dirt and dark to rebuild Hawke’s Bay’s most recognisable building, Eddie Holmes was afforded the highest civic honour by the mayor of Hastings District Council Sandra Hazlehurst.

It was something unexpected when Gemco, Hawke’s Bay’s leading construction firm, was awarded the contract to strengthen, rebuild and refurbish the Hawke’s Bay Opera House in 2016, followed by the new Functions On Hastings and Municipal building.

For Eddie, who grew up enjoying shows and performances in the buildings, he knew he was embarking on what would be his great career highlight, to lead the $35 million rebuild. When it was officially opened in late July, Eddie was himself the star of the show, being recognised for his dedication to the project and instilling a high level of workmanship and pride by the over 200 trades people that delivered a stunning revival and re-invention of the complex now known as Toitoi Arts and Events Centre.

“I never expected the recognition I got at the re-opening of the Municipal Buildings. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be afforded such as significant compliment by a client, it was a huge surprise. Eddie was also quick to say that it was a team effort and he was well supported by the Gemco team and his project support Rudi Bauerfeind.

“It was tough, especially in breaking the building down in preparation to strengthen it. There was dust, dirt and a lot of noise for 18 months or more as we took the building apart. Concerned for the wellbeing of his team and other sub-contractors Eddie made sure the site had the highest level of health and safety, including regular health check-ups due to concerns about air quality caused by the smashing apart old concrete and bricks.

Today as Eddie enjoys a coffee outside one of the complex’s new hospitality offerings – Long Island Delicatessen, he reflects over the last five years and the outcome, which is significantly better than when it was forced to close over eight years ago.

“I was just ordering our coffees and a customer in the café recognised the Gemco branding on my shirt and said ‘well done – nice job’ and I take that as recognition of Gemco’s and wider teams commitment to the project, not for me as an individual.

At the official opening of the Municipal Buildings and Assembly Hall, Sandra Hazlehurst, as mayor bestowed Eddie the council’s highest recognition – a Hastings Civic Honour Award, reading out a testimonial from the project architect Justin Mathews of Mathews & Mathews.

It read – “Eddie is one of best construction managers I’ve had the privilege of working with. “Eddie could see the vision for the building and has been integral in achieving it. He would instinctively provide solutions on site that would fit with the design goals. The respect, care, and attention to detail given to the heritage qualities of the building through the construction is a testament to Eddie.   “He also understands the importance of working together on complex challenging projects, and is well versed in doing so.  He created an environment where challenges could be resolved through clear and honest communication.  His years of experience shine through in his calm, methodical, and professional manner.   

Sandra in presenting the award added “we are so lucky to have Eddie as our on-site leader. Your contribution and dedication to this project is truly outstanding. You have continually devised innovative solutions to what appeared to be insolvable problems.

So what’s next for Eddie? He’s built or rebuilt many high profile buildings but is now getting back on the tools to build a large new home in Napier.

“I’m keen to be more hands-on and get back on the tools. I haven’t done a house for a while and an opportunity has come up to build an amazing home in a stunning location, so I jumped at the opportunity.”