by Brian Brasell. 24 July 2023.
Chris Wood the senior supervisor of the construction of the Poutu tunnel was seething with anger, “How dare you go telling tales to the Resident engineer”, I was dumbfounded at the belittling accusation and the outrage. “But but, we talk about job planning and technical issues twice every week, he’s my boss, I work for him, that’s my job”. Chris wasn’t listening, he felt betrayed. Chris as senior supervisor had 100 men and 8 staff under his control, from whom he expected total loyalty, he wasn’t my boss, I couldn’t believe that he would accuse with such conviction, I left the tea room and went to my office, I was somewhat stunned and upset and considered the outburst.
Chris had been in charge of contract supervision team on the Tawhitikuri to Wanganui Tunnel where he had a good reputation as a clear and decisive thinker. On the retirement of Alan Banks the previous senior supervisor at the Poutu tunnel I had looked forward to working with Chris. Chris had been of the job for only a few weeks and had settled into his new role well. This falling out wasn’t a good start, the shame was that the hostility continued.
I was left to consider the character of both Chris and Alan. Alan and I had a good relationship in spite of minor irritations, but with trust and respect they were accommodated. I had rather unfairly considered Alan as a bit of an old woman, I must admit to being impatient when we go together to talk about upcoming work, first he would roll a smoke, light and inhale, then we could discuss the matters of the day. On hindsight, what I admired about Alan was that he would listen, in fact he would listen and take on new technology. The introduction of new equipment of which he knew little about as an act of trust and courage and we as a team would make it happen. I also appreciated that he made allowance for my relative youth as I was in my early twenties. Alan as senior supervisor saw to the excavation and completion of the concrete work of the tunnel before retiring and moving to Tauranga, a warm place in the sun.
With regard to Chris I suspect that he had got used to being top dog on his previous job and hadn’t considered that others had an input to the running of the job beyond his jurisdiction and perhaps didn’t have the ability to listen. Chris and I carried on with day to day operations, he could barely talk to me, this made our relationship uncomfortable, but the job got done. As the site work was being completed, I applied for a transfer to Ministry of Works Power Design Office, on departing Chis was able to shake my hand and wish me well, or was it good riddance.