Visions become reality with Hawkins

A lot can change in 75 years, but Hawkins’ goal of helping make visions a reality has been a mainstay over the decades.

In the summer of 1946 Fred Hawkins and his mates were sat in his modest garage in Hamilton bringing together their passion to form a building business. Did these enterprising builders ever envisage that their company would go on to become New Zealand’s foremost construction company, shaping the skyline of our nation?

Driven by a loyal team, some reaching 50 years of service, and underpinned by a quintessential Kiwi can-do attitude, the Hawkins business is now an icon in the construction sector. As the team celebrates 75 years they reflect on the characters that built this great business, and eagerly look to their bright future ahead.

Te Oro Youth Music and Arts Centre 2015

The Hawkins story is centred on its passionate people and the many projects from the early years in the Waikato region to entry into Auckland and subsequent expansion throughout New Zealand. As a proud Kiwi company and now a part of Downer New Zealand, Hawkins operates in sectors necessary to our communities, including health, education, defence and housing. Its key clients include the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Defence, local government, Iwi, universities and hotels across the country. Hawkins has built high levels of industry respect and trust by delivering on promises and working collaboratively with its supply partners. Its strong relationships are fundamental to the company’s success.

Diverse transformational projects, the work of Hawkins, feature in almost every part of New Zealand – from schools, churches, banks, retail outlets and warehouses to hotels, apartments, hospitals, airports and corrections facilities, tourist facilities, dairy factories, energy projects and integrated environmental and community social infrastructure projects. Hawkins has put its stamp on the New Zealand landscape. Take a walk through Wynyard Quarter and you will see the ASB Waterfront Theatre, ANZ Viaduct Events Centre, striking commercial buildings and Park Hyatt hotel all within a stones’ throw of each other.

The legacy of successful projects alone would be a stand-out in any company’s record books. But add to that the attributes of a company culture that has stood the test of time: the emphasis on relationships, fairness, health, safety and sustainability, and importance on having fun, and you have the blueprint for Hawkins and perhaps the reason behind the company’s loyal base.

UoA Engineering School Building 2020

A portfolio of projects

When you take a look at the New Zealand landscape, there are plenty of buildings that have come to fruition thanks to Hawkins.

In 1972, the company built the Human Sciences building at University of Auckland – the largest construction project in Auckland at the time and the first project for the Hawkins team out of the Waikato region. The year 1988 saw the first of many Auckland International Airport projects commence.

“We’ve got people who have been working at the airport for over 20 years,” says Murray Robertson, executive general manager at Hawkins.

More recent projects under construction include the Ministry of Defence Ohakea aircraft hangers, the new recreational centre at the University of Auckland and the rebuilding of the original 1972 Hawkins-built Human Sciences building, and the new Tōtara Huamaru project at North Shore Hospital.

“Tōtara Huamaru (Hospital) is being built for Waitematā District Health Board and is a critical element of social infrastructure that the community relies on,” says Robertson.

Terry Buchan, general manager of operations at Hawkins, says DHBs and universities around the country have also been strong contributors to Hawkins.

“They’ve given us a stable platform over the years to be able to train and develop our people which has been really pleasing.”

Christchurch Town Hall 2019

The people behind the business

The people make Hawkins what it is today. Many employees join Hawkins because they admire and respect the company. A strong family culture has always existed both within the company and with subcontractors and suppliers. This has been maintained since joining Downer New Zealand who share a similar history having started out as a small construction company in Dunedin.

The ‘foundation’ directors of FT Hawkins Ltd. From left: Cliff Thompson, Fred Hawkins and Bill Nash

“We have really high employee engagement as people really do love working here. Sounds a bit cliché, but in both Hawkins and Downer it really is all about our people and I am very proud to work with such an amazing team.”

Terry Buchan has been with Hawkins for 26 years.

“When I started, we had around 100 people in the company around the country and some of those people when I started had already been at Hawkins for 20-odd years. Some are still here today which is testament to our business and people,” he says.

Zero Harm safety is embedded in Hawkins’ culture and is fundamental to the company’s future success.

“Our success is attributed to culture. My transition from Downer to Hawkins was seamless because the culture is aligned. We work hard. We have fun. We put our people first, and we prioritise safety. My job is to make sure everyone home goes safe to their friends and family,” says Robertson.

Foodstuffs 2021

Into the future

The Hawkins team are considered challengers and bar raisers. The collective goal is to deliver high quality projects that clients can be proud of and create a great client experience along the way. They do this by being forward-thinking in the way they go, challenging how things are done and finding better ways to ensure success. Hawkins invests in technology, innovation and continuous improvement.

“Rather than just delivering a hospital, we now have the capability to build and maintain it. The conversation needs to be on how can we provide a better end-to-end service for our clients and their customers. The thinking is more towards a whole-of-life approach, and I am confident our clients appreciate this. We must be thinking about how the building will perform in 15 years, long after we’ve finished. That will really make a difference to the people that actually use it, whether it’s a school or a hospital, a hotel or an office,” says Robertson.

Buchan agrees that the focus is now very much on a project’s whole-of-life. “In the last 10 years, the improvement on sustainability and whole-of-life has really improved the quality outcomes in the design of the building. “The projects are a lot more complex now than what they used to be. Systems and technology in buildings today are a lot more sophisticated.

“We’ve got a couple of great projects in the pipeline which definitely opens the doors for a more stable future and environment to allow us to further develop and train our people,” says Buchan.

The true Kiwi passion for great projects with great clients, great people and great innovation is what will help Hawkins to continue bringing ideas to life for many years to come in building New Zealand’s future.