New chief executive, new direction for SARNZ

SARNZ has employed  Graham Burke as its new  full time chief executive.

SARNZ has employed Graham Burke as its new full time chief executive.

Scaffolding, Access & Rigging NZ (SARNZ) has come a long way since its inception in 1994, when it was formed
by a group of scaffolders and riggers getting together to talk about industry issues.

The organisation has recently appointed Graham Burke as its first ever chief executive, a newly created full time position.

In his challenging new role, Graham will oversee the management of SARNZ, raise its profile as a specialist trade organisation, increase its membership and capability, and support its voluntary executive team, for whom the workload in the current climate had become too great, he says.

“With increased demand from the construction sector, skill shortages, new health and safety legislation, and various other issues impacting on the industry, the group of volunteers on the executive reached the conclusion they needed to employ someone to take SARNZ forward. I am delighted to have been chosen for the role,” says Graham.

As a life member of SARNZ he is already very familiar with the organisation, having been on the executive from 2002 to 2015, including five years as president.

His long career in the construction and scaffolding industry goes back to the early 1980s, when he worked as a builder for himself and other companies. It was while working as a carpenter for a large painting company that he started learning what was to become his career in scaffolding.

In 1998 he started his own commercial maintenance and general contracting business, and moved into scaffolding in 2000, by which time he had his scaffold ticket.

Last year, after feeling a “little bit burnt out”, Graham sold his longstanding Wellington firm Workzone Scaffolds, and did some consulting before leaving for Alaska on the “trip of a lifetime”.

He was asked to be part of a sledging expedition in Alaska, retracing the 700-mile sledging route Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen took from Herschel Island to Eagle in 1905.

Large scale projects like this require specialist expertise.

Large scale projects like this require specialist expertise.

The team successfully completed the journey, the first since Amundsen’s day, through one of the coldest, most remote wildernesses left on the planet.

“It was an amazing four week trip in freezing conditions. Just to get to the start line required a 100 mile dog sled ride, 350 mile truck journey, and 180 mile flight, which was an adventure in itself.”

Graham says it took a bit of adjusting to come back to everyday life after his unique experience, but he is equally passionate about progressing the scaffolding and construction sectors in New Zealand.

As former president of the Specialist Trades Federation, Graham was at the forefront of the battle to change the retentions regime as part of the review of the Construction Contract Amendment Bill.

“I was really pleased with the outcome. I’ve been in construction and associated trades all my working life, so it’s great to see positive changes and improvements come to fruition.”

Policy development and legislation is also part of Graham’s role with SARNZ, along with member engagement and support, internal training, and building SARNZ as a powerful industry organisation with greater influence.

“I enjoyed the previous contribution I made to SARNZ on the executive and in the president’s role, and am very happy this full time opportunity came along to help progress and improve the scaffolding and rigging industry as a whole.”

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