Business Profiles

Russell Roads – Driving ahead into the next 50 years

With 50 years on the clock, Hawke’s Bay’s most established local civil construction business Russell Roads is driving forward to being much more than building roads and pavements.

Russell Roads was started by Chris and Ken Russell in 1973 as a small local civil construction business and over the last 50 years it has helped shape roads, walkways, residential and industrial developments across Hawke’s Bay.

The Hastings based business has been on a fast track of growth in recent years, with Robbie and Michelle Gale becoming part owners in 2015 and then taking full ownership in 2019. The step change included amalgamating their business CPM Concrete with Russell Roads with the ambition of becoming a significant player in the civil construction sector.

In 2022 Robbie lured Gavin O’Connor from global leader Stantec to add further professionalism to the operation. Gavin was Stantec’s regional director of national transportation, a role that required significant travel outside of the region. With a young family, Gavin was looking for a new challenge locally. “I’ve been looking for a new opportunity and although I’ve been within large national and multi-national corporates, Russell Roads posed a really exciting opportunity with growth potential for not only myself but all our staff.”

What many don’t know is that Russell Roads is more than just roads and pavements… The business also has an asphalt plant in Omahu Road, two river-based quarries in Stockade Road in Central Hawke’s Bay and Maraekakaho in Hastings along with a newly consented land based quarry at Mohaka Coach Road, north of Napier. Gavin believes that the businesses growth will come as a materials supplier over the next five years. Expansion plans are well underway including a move to a purpose built facility within the next 18 months as well as repositioning the business to align with its service offerings.

“We do more than build roads, we cover the entire supply chain. From rivers to roads is an easy way to explain it. We supply materials for the civil contracting sector, we do 3 waters infrastructure, and we do road and pavement construction. Russell Road’s uses about 10 percent of aggregate materials from the quarries for its own projects, supplying 90 percent to other contractor businesses including a long-term supply contract with Bridgeman Concrete as well as national civil contractor big guns in Fulton Hogan and Downers.

“We expect that the aggregates business will be bigger than the roading business within the next 12 months or so. If you look at our Mohaka quarry, this is a 32 hectare site, which is about 5-10 years of supply into the market. “In Central HB we can extract 150,000 tonne of metal, which is a significant amount and with the recent cyclone damage, we expect a lot of demand.”

Gavin says he was attracted to the family-owned business because of the Gale’s desire to give back to the community as well as provide greater career pathways for their staff, along with profit-share incentives.

“Michelle has established a charitable trust that supports local initiatives while at the end of each year staff receive a bonus payment acknowledging their contribution to the business. “Robbie and Michelle really want to do more for their team than just a job and a wage and extra cash at Christmas is a nice windfall. Another benefit is that due to the bonus being based on profit, it has raised the bar in performance.”

Civil Contractors are regarded as a bit rough around the edges and take a lot of public flack for quality of workmanship. Gavin is acutely aware of this – and ensures that Russell Roads is at the top of its game. He says the company is fortunate to have two of the region’s most experienced project managers, both with over 30 years in the industry. A recent win at the regional civil contractor awards in the over $3m project category for the Flaxmill Inundation remediation was a proud milestone for the company and the project lead Rob Anderson.

“We want to be recognised for quality workmanship and as a local employer and supporter within the community. It’s also really important for us that we have good communications with the property owners where works are being undertaken. “We know it can be a frustrating time and that civil works can be a dusty and noisy operation, so we make sure that we have direct communications with those nearby. “

A good example of this is the new road alignment and round about at the intersection of Crosses Road and Napier Road in Havelock North. We worked really hard to complete this project on time New Napier Road and Crosses Road roundabout with minimal disruption and if there was an issue raised it was acted on quickly.”

Recently there’s been a significant investment in new technology as well as focus on recycling materials and reducing their environmental footprint. “Globally there is a big push on how to re-use materials and we have looked to do this with the St Georges Road realignment, where we have looked to use the existing road materials in the new road.”

Russell Roads has also partnered with a local recycling facility Earthworks Hawke’s Bay for the disposal of old pavements and concrete materials. The new purpose-built facility earmarked to start in 2024 will also have an environmental bent while there’s also thinking underway of energy efficiency at the quarries. In recent months Russell Roads has been at the frontline of the cyclone recovery. Gavin is proud of the role the close to 100 staff have played in their own community, clearing debris and helping reopen access into rural areas as well as being the only operational asphalt plant in the region.

“Everyone has really pulled together to get our communities reconnected.  For the most part the company badges have been left at the door and people have collaborated and worked together to deliver what’s best for the community.”

Going forward into the recovery Gavin says the quarries and asphalt plant will be in high demand with the Mohaka quarry being vital to the reopening of the Napier to Wairoa route. “As a large local employer our people are really keen to be involved and we envisage being a key provider as the response builds momentum.  We have particular strengths in earthworks and pavement build which will be key to the response.”

It all looks promising for Russell Roads as it drives forward into the next half century.