Case study - Greenspace Services
Greenspaces generate greenfields thinking
Solutions are critical, according to Richard King, Delta’s Manager of Greenspace Services. If a company like Delta is not constantly thinking about what innovative solutions it can provide , the temptation is to repeat what it has already done. Richard is in charge of a team of over 100 people who together are responsible for services as diverse as turf maintenance, horticulture, vegetation control and roadside maintenance.
“Greenspace services focus on appearances, safety and providing recreation areas ,” he explains. “Clients such as the Dunedin City Council and Waimakariri District Council are very much judged by their customers on how good things look. When the grounds are in pristine condition and when a city or town area is neat, tidy and well maintained, our clients are perceived as efficiently and effectively delivering value. We play a key role in that.”
Keeping things tidy is relatively straight forward in the winter months, says Richard, but the real challenges come in spring and summer when everything’s growing and the weather is changeable. “That’s also the time of year when the summer sports are in season and when people are out and about. We must manage the Greenspace areas and meet people’s expectations over a sustained period of time.”
Relationships are a key part of successful innovation. “You have to take people with you,” comments Richard, “which means you need to gain and keep their trust. In the case of the University Oval, for example, we managed the development as part of a larger project group to increase the playing capacity and upgrade the outfield to further enhance its status as an international cricket ground. . It was a big change for the ground – and with that came big changes in expectations.”
With its historic stadium and tree-lined grounds, Dunedin’s University Oval is a very special place for the summer game. But the venue is also used for competition rugby during the winter months, and playing across the cricket block brings its own set of challenges when preparing the ground for international-level games. In order to make the project work, it was vital that Delta listened to a host of stakeholders and then worked closely with them, locally and at a national level, to provide a world-class, practical solution.
The contract itself involved the construction of a new cricket block. One of the problems was that the Oval itself was smaller than most international venues. To upgrade the venue, the Greenspace team constructed a new wicket block and extended the outfield, Delta’s Mechanical and Engineering experts supplied the steelwork to expand the media centre and sightscreens, the Civil Contracting people were brought in to deal with the drainage, and Delta’s Electrical Services team took care of the new electricity transformer and cabling.
“It was a real team effort amongst the people at Delta – and a real team effort with so many other people who had a stake in the success of the project, such as the Dunedin City Council, Otago Cricket, the New Zealand Sports Turf Institute, and many more. It worked well, because people respond to being part of the solution,” says Richard.
The same philosophy applies to introducing new ideas almost anywhere in the Greenspace Services business. Often, it’s the people who do the work who find new and exciting answers. The suggestion to change the Council’s bedding displays by introducing new patterns, new plants and designs that so far have included children’s toys, ferns and rugby came from staff. So did the suggestion to use the mowers traditionally used on golf courses to cut highway verges – an idea that saw a significant increase in cutting speeds, higher productivity and much better network control. Then there was the decision to add a rear arm mower and a front arm mower to the company’s large tractors, allowing them to effectively cut two different areas at once.
“Relatively small changes in mindset can have a significant effect on end results,” says Richard, citing the case of a staff member who saw an opportunity to introduce salt as a weed control for pathways instead of using traditional agrichemicals. “That change in thinking has revolutionised the way we treat hard surfaces.
“But,” he adds, “you have to be open to those opportunities. At Delta, we really encourage people to look for ways to do things to the best of our abilities, and as these examples show, sometimes the best way to do things right is to do them first. After that, buy-in is critical. We look to get together with our clients and involve and include them in bringing the idea to a working conclusion .”
Green spaces, it seems, are indeed an opportunity for greenfields thinking. People like to be surrounded by spaces that invigorate and inspire them – and for Delta that means continually looking for new ways to take what they do to another level. It might be something as simple as a new way of using traditional plant; something as creative as a new design for a planting bed; or something as influential as upgrading an international cricket ground . The key thing is that Delta’s greenspace thinking touches people in so many ways. The reaction can be as small as a smile or as significant as international acknowledgement. One thing though is for certain – it won’t go unnoticed.