Performance Contracting


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-By John Boley

What Nyholt Constructions offers is “performance contracting”. We asked managing director Richard Nyholt to explain.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “we aim to meet our clients’ expectations. We understand time is critical and therefore for us to produce is important. For us too, obviously, time is critical because the more we can achieve in a shorter amount of time the better it is for us and the client… We’re here to do the job and here to do it properly at a high level.” The company developed the slogan six months ago to showcase what it can do “that someone else doesn’t already have out there.”

‘Out There’ is the Yatala enterprise area of southern Queensland. “The location here in Yatala for our head office is ideal for us to service the Gold Coast and the Ipswich, Logan and Brisbane areas – all within an hour’s drive – and the Sunshine Coast is only 1.5 to 2 hours away. But the Gold Coast has in recent years (if we put aside the GFC) been great for development, the Logan/Ipswich areas are targeted as the next growth areas with satellite cities being planned and obviously in the capital Brisbane as well there’s always activity.”

The company did all the civil works for Yatala’s Access Business Park for the developer Property Solutions Group. “Then the company purchased a block of land and were the first to construct and move into the subdivision which now is about 80-90 percent built out.”

In light of what Queensland has suffered of late, Nyholt is looking at the rebuilding of the state. “We want to get into the reconstruction work around Queensland. There isn’t a lot in this southeast corridor, most of the work that’s going to happen will be in the southwest and going up the coastline into east central and northern Queensland. There’s a lot of activity at the moment in putting all that work together and it’s something we are looking at being a part of.

“We’re not currently main-roads qualified, something we were in the past. But we let it lapse because of lack of opportunities. Now, with this expected work the government is saying needs to be completed in two years – which is obviously a big ask and they will need a lot of resources to do that – we think there will be opportunities for us to help.”

Nyholt is predominantly a subdivisional contractor. “Building 50-80 lot subdivisions is our bread and butter, but a lot of that includes road construction and bulk earthworks and any drainage and culverts that will be required in the process of rebuilding the state.”

Bureaucracy is a headache, Richard agrees. “If our clients, being developers, are held back in their applications and planning processes, that affects us as a civil contractor as well. The longer it takes them to get the approval, the longer it takes us to be given the opportunity to do the work. In Queensland at the moment, and especially around the Gold Coast area, the council is looking at ways of speeding up their planning process but there have been a lot of complaints from developers saying it is taking too long – a lot longer in Queensland than it is in states like Victoria where construction activity seems to be a lot higher. The longer it takes, obviously the higher the holding costs.

“I guess we are indirectly involved even though it’s not our land. We may be told we have been a successful tenderer on a project and we are just waiting for the approvals to come through before we can start – and sometimes that can take months.”

Training, environmental considerations and safety are high priorities for Nyholt Constructions. Says Richard, “each project has its own environmental sensitivities that we need to consider. We get audited by council and the consulting engineers we work for, so we are certainly not interested in any shortcuts when it comes to the environment.”

In terms of qualified and able staff in the industry, “there has been and will again be a shortage. It has corrected itself slightly since the GFC, since activity has slowed down, but now with the mines in central Queensland and all the work of reconstruction – infrastructure rebuilding not just for the state but also for the mines because they have lost a lot of infrastructure as well – it will no doubt drain some of southeast Queensland ‘s competent workers that are looking for opportunities to go up into those areas and chase the bigger dollars than we can offer.

“We can’t compete in offering what the mines and some of our big brothers [the top-tier contractors] can offer – we’re a long-time contractor, we offer permanent and secure employment. We are heavily involved in training. Some 80 percent of our employees are going through some form of traineeship. Last year we won a special award from the Civil Contractors Federation Queensland for our commitment to training.”

One other thing that differentiates Nyholt is that it owns a fleet of more than 60 items of machinery so is not reliant on hiring in. The fleet is available for hire but primarily there for Nyholt’s own use.

It’s a family business, founded by Richard’s uncle Norbert Mitterdorfer in 1977 in Canberra, where there were a lot of government works through the 1980s. In the late 80s, Norbert started a small operation on the Gold Coast and as Canberra’s works came to an end he permanently relocated to the region. Richard joined the business in 2003 and took over the reins in 2006 due to the unfortunate ill health of his uncle.

Richard enjoys his work. “It certainly keeps me busy. It’s highly competitive at all levels of contracting and especially in recent years since the downturn in the economy as there has been less work available but still the same number of players in the market.

“The industry is not for the faint-hearted. It’s very challenging, we have many risks to consider as we price work – many uncontrollable factors like the weather, which in recent times has certainly impacted on us all, and we also have relationships to maintain and build on with our clients. I love it, I thrive on it.”

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

June 1, 2020, 5:17 AM AEST