Putting it out there; the unique challenges and rewards of delivering remote infrastructure

We’ve all become experts at working remotely and mastering technology in recent times. We can be at a meeting anywhere, any time – with little more than a smartphone, an ironed shirt and a cuppa. We can even throw on a load of washing and feed the dog at the same time.

But for Pensar, remote work and technical challenges have been par for the course from day one. It’s in their DNA. In fact, the more ‘out there’ – geographically and logistically – the better.

 It’s mid-afternoon on a Saturday when Pensar Water Director Pat Newell gets a call from one of his project engineers, Nick.

Nick and a team of four multidisciplinary trades and technicians have been constructing a new multistage media filter system for a water treatment plant in Croydon up in the Gulf. They’re about two weeks into a three-week job. Much of the media filter system has been prefabricated to streamline construction at the remote site – and to have the system operational and water quality guidelines secured before temporary storage runs dry.

“Hey Nick, everything alright?”

“Hey Pat, yeah all good. We’ve finished.”

“You’ve finished? Five days early?”

“Yeah mate. Finished, checked, tested, checked and tested again. Alright if we go fishing tomorrow?”

“Mate if you’re finished five days early, you can go fish wherever you like.”

So the crew went heli fishing with a local chopper pilot and adventure tourism operator. They were pumped. And not just about heli fishing in the gulf – but also about working on a critical project in an amazing part of the country, and bringing it in well ahead of schedule.

It’s that diversity of projects, places and professional challenges that keeps Pat on his toes at Pensar. He joined the company as a recent graduate 12 years ago.

“Pensar has built a reputation for getting off the beaten track and tackling the tricky stuff,” the Water Director says. “Every project is different. No two jobs or days are ever the same. Our people value the variety of work we do. When we’re recruiting, we say if you want to do the same thing every day, we’re probably not the right fit. If you like ownership and accountability, you’ll do well.”

For Pat and Pensar, the more off the beaten track and out of the box the better.

“It’s challenging but rewarding work. That’s what’s kept me interested. You end up doing some pretty out there stuff – tackling things you never expected. It makes for well-rounded technicians and strong teams. You’re well placed to handle adversity and overcome challenges.

“Just the logistics of planning a project from hundreds of kilometres away are complicated. You often can’t get to the area until you’re doing the work, so you can’t know everything up front. We have to plan for the unexpected. Our people do a bit of everything. They have to be multi-skilled and think on their feet. We’re often working with critical infrastructure. And in regional and remote areas, it’s often the only asset – there’s no fallback. It’s on your shoulders to deliver.”

Connecting with local communities

Working regionally and remotely, Pat and Pensar see they play an important role in helping regional councils to deliver results for their communities and make the most of their infrastructure.

“Regional stakeholders are invested in the process and committed to the project. They want to see it go well. It impacts them personally. It’s part of their community. They value our involvement and we value their engagement, so we all work together to deliver a great outcome.”

When Pensar was engaged to design and construct a new wastewater treatment plant for the Paroo Shire Council in Cunnamulla, a strong rapport between the client and project team saw the plant optimised and enhanced with new ideas and features – adding value and increasing efficiencies for client and community.

“We gave Paroo Shire the solution they needed for a new plant. But they were open to new ideas – they were keen to see how we could enhance the project to deliver better outcomes. Excess water was utilised for irrigation. Solar PV offset electricity demands. Incineration and composting facilities supported waste disposal and reuse. We also designed the plant to be easy for local personnel to operate and service themselves.

“This will save Council time, minimise waste and optimise resources. It’s a great example of not just understanding what a client wants and project demands, but also how to add value and make a difference. We got the chance to build a bespoke new plant perfectly suited to Paroo Shire’s needs.”

At a Paroo Shire Council event, CEO Cassie White thanked the Pensar team for the work they were doing in Cunnamulla.

“Everyone at Council knew we were there and what we were doing. To have Cassie thank us publicly, we were chuffed. The CEO wanted to share Council’s excitement about the project. You don’t get too many clients excited about a sewer plant! A lot of what we do you don’t see. We can work for months and all we have to show is a couple of hatches on the ground. It’s not like a bridge.

“Most people don’t know what a water or wastewater treatment plant is – they just know when you turn a tap or flush, it just happens. So it’s great to have that engagement with the people who benefit from the work you do. You build a strong connection with the place and become part of the local community. It’s rewarding for us. Our people are proud of the work we do. There’s a great sense of accomplishment for a job well done.”

One of the Pensar Cunnamulla team took community engagement to the next level by moonlighting in a local pub.

“Our supervisor Alan was staying in a local hotel in Cunnamulla for six months. When the hotel manager was short on staff during COVID, Alan helped out serving at the pub three nights a week. We don’t normally encourage spending too much time in the pub, but in this case we made an exception! Alan welcomed the social interaction and the manager welcomed the help.

“Regional projects have their challenges, but they also offer great rewards and great camaraderie. You build relationships. And best of all, when you do a regional stint with Pensar, you get an Akubra!”

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