John Erceg Managing Director of Main Roads

Managing Director's Review

John Erceg
Managing Director of Main Roads

Highlights and achievements

  • Kimberley flood recovery response
  • Total Solar Eclipse event in Exmouth
  • $1 billion Regional Road Safety Program
  • First regions successfully transition to in-house maintenance delivery
  • New infrastructure opened across the State
  • $3.8 billion invested in the community

Future objectives

  • Deliver our largest ever program
  • Continue to create opportunities for Aboriginal businesses, engagement, and participation
  • Continue the transition of maintenance activities in-house
  • A commitment to sustainability and the circular economy as we work towards a transition to Net Zero

We tend to take for granted all the productivity and employment benefits that flow from our road infrastructure in our day-to-day life until something goes wrong. Over the past year we have seen significant disruptions to communities and businesses in various parts of the state due to natural events impacting our road network.

As stewards and custodians of the state's single largest asset we are very aware that our role involves much more than the planning and delivery of new infrastructure. As such our focus continues to be on ensuring our road network meets the needs of everyone in the community, including industry and our many stakeholders.

One example is from the floods and record rains in the Kimberley which caused significant damage to sections of Great Northern Highway, including the Fitzroy Crossing Bridge. We have committed to an ambitious program to re-establish permanent connectivity across the Fitzroy River and are working closely with a range of agencies to restore and maintain a level of connectivity to these stranded communities.

On quite a different note, our teams helped to ensure a smooth and safe event for thousands of local and international visitors that descended upon Exmouth for the Total Solar Eclipse. Just one of many events we help manage across the State from fun runs to charity events, to rock festivals and visiting international sports teams.

Investing in the road network and local communities

During the year we invested a record $3.8 billion across the State as we continue to deliver significant projects and programs to improve the state road system.

The Bunbury Outer Ring Road project has commitments in place to spend $512 million in the area, with almost 300 local businesses already engaged on the project. Further south and the Albany Ring Road is also making good progress with Stage 1 open and works well underway on Stage 2. Here we have been able to achieve an average of 75% of employees being from the local area with 95% of construction materials sourced locally.

The Regional Road Safety program continues to be an important initiative delivering strong outcomes. We have delivered more than $650 million in works through the program upgrading 6,400 kms of regional roads to significantly reduce the crash rate focussing on shoulder sealing, audible edge lines and wider centre lines.

In October we saw the successful transition of our Wheatbelt region to undertake the delivery of routine maintenance and minor capital works in-house. It was closely followed by our Mid-West Gascoyne region in November with more to come in October this year as Goldfields-Esperance, Metropolitan and Pilbara Regions adopt this new model. The transition enables us to be more responsive across the regions and boost community engagement and economic growth as we create more than 660 new jobs with almost 500 of those in regional areas.

Aboriginal engagement and participation

In the last year we spent $132 million through direct and indirect engagement of Aboriginal businesses and have seen Aboriginal people work more than 550,500 hours on our projects. We are recruiting dedicated Regional Aboriginal Stakeholder Engagement advisors to develop relationships with local businesses and individuals to support business opportunities and engagement within regional areas and local communities.

This year's NAIDOC Week theme was 'For Our Elders' recognising the important role that Aboriginal Elders play as cultural knowledge holders both individually and as a community. The Causeway Pedestrian and Cyclist Bridges Project is just one example of the positive step forward between our project teams and Aboriginal people. With this project located on a site that holds strong cultural significance to Aboriginal people, we have been working with the Matagarup Elders Group to ensure we deliver an iconic, culturally sensitive legacy project that all community members can connect with. We have created an Aboriginal Heritage Management Plan that outlines how we will identify, manage and protect Aboriginal cultural heritage. We recognise, value, and appreciate what Elders bring to our projects through sharing knowledge to improve connections with country, culture and community.

Improving sustainability and social outcomes

Over the last 12 months we have been focussing on preparing for a transition to Net Zero as we develop plans that consider a future that moves towards a low carbon and climate resilient economy. We are looking to identify actions to remove carbon emissions from our activities and supply chain where practicable including decarbonisation.

We continue to adopt the Infrastructure Sustainability Council Rating Scheme to evaluate sustainability and I was very pleased when we were recognised with the Public Sector Industry Impact Award. We were also recognised for our pioneering commitment in transitioning to updated and more comprehensive versions of the rating scheme.

Community satisfaction with our services remains high as we continue to strengthen and improve our approaches around community and stakeholder engagement and participation. Like many organisations we continue to seek the best way to address gaps in our communications in what is a rapidly evolving digital world. As we roll out major upgrades across the state there will be disruptions and we are working across the Portfolio to minimise inconvenience the best we can including ensuring that we communicate upcoming works and propose alternative solutions for public transport and road users.

Last year saw a significant increase in employees, reflecting the onboarding of in-house maintenance staff and a continued strong focus on attracting development employees into our organisation. We have continued to introduce new programs and build on our existing approaches aimed at attracting and retaining people in our regional areas.

Sadly, two contractors working on our projects died during the year and, it is a reminder of the dangers in delivering works in a challenging environment. We have renewed our focus on safety in the workplace as we continue to work with industry on improving safety on our projects.

Looking ahead

The year ahead is shaping up to be one of our largest with the value of the total program at just over $4.4 billion. This will see continued works on the Regional Road Safety Program, Tonkin Gap projects, Bunbury Outer Ring Road, and Mitchell Freeway upgrades as well as on Marble Bar Road, Tanami Road, Outback Way, and Bussell Highway Duplication to name a few.

The work to transition maintenance for the remaining regions, except for Kimberley, is planned to occur before the end of the year with work already well underway. Lessons learned this year have been adopted and we are expecting to continue to see the transitions continue seamlessly.

Our Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy will be released early in the new financial year and that will be closely followed by a new framework to support our road to better Diversity, Equity and Inclusion across eight focus areas.

We will continue to focus on achieving positive social outcomes across the delivery of all our programs focussing on progressing our Net Zero Plans and continuing to seek to achieve outcomes that support a strong circular economy. We will also continue to focus on creating opportunities for Aboriginal businesses and participation across the state supported by our involvement in the second “Meet the Buyer and Supplier” forum to be held in November.

We are well positioned to support the state working closely with our Portfolio partners and suppliers. I am very proud of the efforts of everyone working with and for Main Roads and express my appreciation and thanks as we all look forward to another exciting year full of opportunities.

John Erceg
Managing Director of Main Roads