Boring through a pandemic

by David Convery, Managing Editor, Great Southern Press.

Seemingly overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way Australia, and the rest of the world, operated. Borders were closed, schools were shut down, public events postponed or cancelled and rules were put in place to make sure people stayed away from each other.

Many workers from every industry were sent away from offices to do their jobs at home, some were sent on early holidays, and the unlucky ones – of which there were unfortunately many –were left unemployed. The underground construction industry has been somewhat fortunate, as in many instances the work done within the sector is vital to maintaining a good standard of everyday life.

For many trenchless companies, the challenge has been to work around all the issues COVID-19 presents, while maintaining the high quality of work necessary to keep underground infrastructure functioning.

Trenchless construction has continued on essential projects, such as the Metro Tunnel in Melbourne.

Events on the backburner

With a ban on public gatherings enforced around Australia, several major trenchless-related events have been forced to be postponed or cancelled.

Strength in unity

In early April 2020, construction unions united to form appropriate safety measures and guidelines amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

A group of 11 unions sent a message to the building and construction industry to treat COVID-19 with the utmost importance by adhering to all recommended safety produces.

The group comprised the Air Conditioning & Mechanical Contractors’ Association (AMCA), Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), Civil Contractors Federation (CCF), Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), Electrical Trades Union (ETU), Master Builders Victoria (MBV), Master Plumbers, National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA), Plumbing and Pipe Trades Employees Union (PPTEU), Property Council Victoria and the Urban Development Institute of Australia [Victoria] (UDIA).

The group stressed the need to follow guidelines including stipulating strict hygiene practices, social distancing and separation of workers on meal breaks as well as other measures to ensure sites can be remain safe and open. The unions say the guidelines have been developed in line with government recommendations and should be adhered dutifully by all employers and employees.

As essential services, the group says it is critical all stakeholders of the building and construction industry work responsibility to ensure the protection of employers, workers and the broader community.

Government support

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing chaotic economic conditions, Australian importers have been encouraged to consider the ATO’s GST deferral scheme. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) offers a scheme for domestic importers whereby instead of paying GST on taxable imports upfront, they can defer payment until the first activity statement is lodged after the goods are imported.

To participate in the scheme, an importer must:

  • have an ABN
  • be registered for GST
  • lodge activity statements monthly and online
  • make activity statements payments electronically
  • comply with customs regulations.

Applications for the scheme can be completed online.

Additionally, to further ensure construction continued as necessary, New South Wales government announced an extension of its work hours during the pandemic. The government announced that from 2 April, weekday construction hours would apply in NSW to both weekends and public holidays.

With the construction and development sector constituting approximately 10 per cent of the New South Wales economy and one in four people in NSW drawing their income from the industry, NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes says it was important to keep the work going.

“[The NSW Government] is doing everything [they] can to keep as many people as possible in their jobs as well as keeping people safe and healthy in line with medical advice,” he says.

“The [construction and development sectors] will be vital in keeping people in jobs and keeping investment flowing into our state over the coming weeks and months. To help keep the industry moving, we’ve granted flexibility in construction hours to allow work to continue on construction sites whilst abiding with social distancing rules and without significant losses to productivity or jobs.”

Remaining onsite

While much of the world sits in limbo, many trenchless companies are continuing to work through the pandemic – including at major underground construction projects. In Western Australia, work on Perth’s METRONET continues, which will see the construction of two twin bored tunnels linking three new rail stations to the existing network.

In the first half of May, the tunnel boring machine (TBM) completed its work, having spent more than 900 days underground tunnelling a total of 16 km across two tunnels. In Melbourne, construction on the Metro Tunnel Project continues as planned with a TBM having begun tunnelling in May while another TBM was approaching completion of another boring operation for the project.

Also in Victoria, Melbourne Water is continually able to deliver sewer upgrades as promised, including finishing a 7.2 km Maribyrnong River Main Sewer upgrade in April.

Despite stage four restrictions enforced in New Zealand, McConnell Dowell continues its boring work on the Snells Algies wastewater pipeline and outfall project, having its TBM recommence its drive at the end of April.

Operators on all these projects have indicated staff are both adhering to the latest relevant health measures and able to complete their work as necessary. With the shadow of COVID-19 likely to hang over the world for the foreseeable future, companies continue to engineer solutions to ensure work can continue on these essential projects.

This article was featured in the June 2020 edition of Trenchless Australasia. To view the magazine on your PC, Mac, tablet or mobile device, click here.

If you have news you would like featured in Trenchless Australasia contact Journalist Sophie Venz at

Logan City Council completes complex project with HDD

The horizontal directional drill (HDD) was part of a larger project between Greenbank and Flagstone Central that will initially service two new residential developments in Greenbank and North Maclean.

The council used HDD to lay pipes for more than 1.32 km from Greenbank to Flagstone to connect to a wastewater facility, with the new section of infrastructure comprising part of the 34 km of the Greater Flagstone trunk wastewater pipelines and 12 new pump stations.

An important step for the community

The original time frame for the project was an anticipated five months; however, the project took nine months to complete due to harder than anticipated geological conditions.

Despite the slight delay, the project was able to reap multiple benefits for the community by allowing the transport of wastewater from homes and businesses in Greater Flagstone to the wastewater treatment plant at the Cedar Grove Environmental Centre.

Now, the Cedar Grove Environmental Centre and its related infrastructure can provide the capacity to manage wastewater flows from the growing communities in the region.

Aerial view of the project site with contractors hard at work for the history-making project.

A history-making project

In addition to completing the longest HDD in the city to date, the council says its project saw polyethylene high stress crack resistant (PE-HSCR) pipe material used for a wastewater sewer rising main project for the first time in Australia.

Logan City Council Water Partnership Manager Mark Vaughn says the PE-HSCR material provides considerable improvement in material behaviour compared with previous HDPE materials.

“As there is a resin in the pipe material, it seals up any cracks caused by dragging of the pipe against the walls of the drill hole,” says Mr Vaughn, adding the expected design life for these pipes is 100 years.

Logan City Council says the project was also the first in Australia to use an underground magnetics walkover locating system. As conventional tracking devices can only monitor the pipe to a depth of 20 m – and the drilled pipe was up to 54 m deep – alternative technology was required.

“The magnetics walkover locating system was a contractor-led initiative, as it can track the buried pipe up to 110m depth,” says Mr Vaughn.

Utilising contractors and local construction

The large project required the work of seven contractors, with peak construction seeing nine work fronts with a total of approximately 80 people. Maxibor were one of these contractors and were responsible for the HDD pipe installation.

Iplex supplied the PE-HSCR pipe, while local people and local businesses were also provided with additional employment and business during the construction.

An easy choice in trenchless

Logan City Council chose to use the trenchless method of HDD due to its lessened cost and environmental impact.

“Installing HDD instead of open trench pipeline improved the hydraulics of the sewerage rising main through undulating ground, which will reduce pumping costs and provide an improved value for money over the design life of the infrastructure,” says Mr Vaughn.

Mr Vaugh says offering value for money, minimal environmental impact by not disturbing waterways and reduced vegetation clearing through a koala sensitive habitat is why the council chose HDD as the trenchless method.

Due to these benefits, the project’s success and improved hydraulics, the Logan City Council plans to use trenchless technology where possible in the future.

This article was featured in the June 2020 edition of Trenchless Australasia. To view the magazine on your PC, Mac, tablet or mobile device, click here.

For more information visit the Logan City Council.

If you have news you would like featured in Trenchless Australasia contact Journalist Sophie Venz at

Aussie Trenchless leaves no project in the trenches

Aussie Trenchless’ flagship – and most popular – product is a close fitting structural spiral ribbed PVC trenchless pipe lining system known as the SRP EXP. Used for circular sewer and storm water gravity mains, the method has seen an increased popularity both in Australasia and abroad thanks to its versatility and ease of use.

By installing SRP EXP, asset operators can extend the service life of sewer and stormwater systems by more than 50 years. The product is designed to fit standard size access chambers but is also ideal for tight spaces and locations with bad access.

As the installation process is unaffected by running infiltration and does not need bypass pumping, it is well suited to water applications, particularly as it also enhances the hydraulic characteristics of the rehabilitated asset. The product is available for asset profiles from DN 150 to DN 1200, with such range allowing it to become a standout product to the market.

Aussie Trenchless Director Chris Meredith says he has seen significant growth in the implementation of this trenchless solution all around the world and particularly here in Australia, where it has been implemented in several locations.

Using Aussie Trenchless’s spiral lining system helped prevent collapse of the existing pipe walls.

A standout product in action

Recently, the spiral lining system was used to rehabilitate corrugated steel stormwater pipes for the Tablelands Regional Council in Queensland at the Ravenshoe Project.

As the pipes – which were each 750 mm in diameter and 33 m long – were in what was described as a ‘horrific’ condition, the contractor decided the only feasible application was Aussie Trenchless’ spiral lining.

With other methodologies, the risk of collapsing the walls could possibly result in a need to dig up the road. As it was the only road providing residents access to their properties, this would have caused major concern and delay with the digging requiring in at least one week of work.

By implementing the Aussie Trenchless solution, the contractors completed a size for size rehabilitation that had minimal risk of collapsing the existing pipe walls. At the conclusion of the project, the contracted engineer was extremely pleased with the final result and signed it off with no hesitation.

Mr Meredith says this project is just one example of how customers are starting to take advantage of the product, with the company receiving lots of market feedback indicating it’s one of the most financially viable and efficient systems available.

“Like all efficient trenchless methods, the spiral lining system helps ensure the works’ aboveground footprint is minimised as much as possible, which includes the land and environment itself, as well as the day-to-day lives of the public in surrounding areas,” says Mr Meredith.

“Other systems need two separate winding machines to install a range of profile to suit pipes from DN 150 to DN 1200. SRP EXP has been designed with one winding machine that installs all sizes of expanding profile for pipes from DN 150 to DN 1200 meaning there is no need for multiple winding machines.”

More than a one-hit wonder

While the SRP EXE is at the forefront of Aussie Trenchless’ offerings to the market, the company’s Hot Sleeve Jacket is a product that remains popular among customers by inducing a speedy resign cure during patch and seal lining activities.

The Hot Sleeve is a tight-fitting heating jacket that is secured over a patch inflatable packer to reduce ambient cure period without reducing its life, with operators finding it saves up to 60 per cent in crew times.

Aussie Trenchless has also caught the industry’s attention with its Pipe Segment Technology (PST) – a man entry lining system using transparent polypropylene lining panels for the rehabilitation of gravity sewer mains.

Both easy to build and fast to implement, PST lining panels are made of polypropylene material which provides a smooth surface with excellent hydraulic performance characteristics.

This article was featured in the June 2020 edition of Trenchless Australasia. To view the magazine on your PC, Mac, tablet or mobile device, click here.

For more information visit the Aussie Trenchless website.

If you have news you would like featured in Trenchless Australasia contact Journalist Sophie Venz at

NSW stoked with its extended construction hours

To support the New South Wales construction and development industry, Mr Stokes announced the NSW Government would continue doing everything it could to ensure as many people as possible kept their jobs while also remaining safe from the virus.

As of 2 April, new rules introduced by the state government stipulate that construction sites, including trenchless ones, are allowed to operate on weekends and public holidays to keep the sector running.

“The construction and development sectors, which make up almost 10 per cent of NSW’s economy, will be vital in keeping people in jobs and keeping investment flowing over the coming weeks and months,” says Mr Stokes.

“In NSW there are almost 400,000 people employed in the property and construction industry and we are committed to doing everything we can to keep each of them in work, but most importantly, to keep them safe and healthy.”

“The [construction and development sectors] will be vital in keeping people in jobs and keeping investment flowing into our state over the coming weeks and months,” he says.

Social distancing measures remain in place

The move allows workers to abide by social distancing rules while keeping construction projects progressing by allowing work to be spread across more days of the week, while also reducing significant losses to productivity and jobs.

On 24 March 2020, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 was amended to enable Mr Stokes to issue orders that override normal planning controls during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the health and safety of workers and the wider community.

Now, the Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development – Construction Work Days) Order 2020 is in place and will continue until the COVID-19 pandemic is over or the advice of NSW Health changes.

The NSW Government says compliance with this order will be monitored and reviewed in case of any adverse impacts on the community or to public health.

A flow on effect

With the NSW Government’s legislation changes demonstrating its support for the continuation of infrastructure developments, the water sector remains positive its vital works will not be negatively affected either.

As an essential service, the maintenance, operations and rehabilitation of water and wastewater pipes will also continue to take place alongside infrastructure developments, allowing for job security of water sector workers and reliable water services to the public.

A pipe string being moved into place for a trenchless construction project using HDD.

Accelerated planning for projects

To further support the construction industry, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced on 24 April 2020 a new Planning System Acceleration Program.

The first 24 projects to undergo the fast-tracked assessment process as part of the NSW Government’s industry support will have the potential to deliver almost 9,500 new jobs and inject more than $7.54 billion into the state’s economy.

“By fast-tracking assessments, we will keep people in jobs and keep the construction industry moving as we ride out the COVID-19 pandemic and set our sights on economic recovery,” says Ms Berejiklian.

This article was featured in the June 2020 edition of Trenchless Australasia. To view the magazine on your PC, Mac, tablet or mobile device, click here.

For more information visit the NSW Government website.

If you have news you would like featured in Trenchless Australasia contact Journalist Sophie Venz at

Mardi to Warnervale construction underway

The 9 km Mardi to Warnervale Pipeline is being delivered by joint venture (JV) partners Spiecapag and Seymour Whyte and, once completed, will enhance the water supply network for the entire region, in particular expanding the northern growth corridor.

Central Coast Council is investing more than $61 million in the pipeline and is being constructed with the use of trenchless technologies, due to the sensitive environmental areas in the region.

Council Director of Water and Sewer Jamie Loader said extensive planning and design activities had been undertaken in preparation for construction.

“Recent conditions including extreme weather events and water restrictions that have faced our community and indeed communities across our state and nation, bring into sharp focus how important water security and water resilience is for everyone,” he said.

“The Mardi to Warnervale Pipeline will ensure a stable long-term water supply to new and growing areas in the north of the region to support anticipated levels of growth and development we need to deliver as part of the Central Coast Regional Plan 2036.

“In addition, we will see an enhancement in bulk water transfers between ourselves and the Hunter which enables better planning for future water resourcing for both regions.”

The pipeline is expected to be commissioned in 2021.

For more information visit the Spiecapag website.

If you have project news you would like featured in Trenchless Australasia contact Journalist Sophie Venz at 

Quake can’t break Smart Lock

On the busy intersection of Peel Street in Gisborne, New Zealand where the bridge crossing the Taruheru River begins, a large section of DN525 sewer pipe was missing. This had caused a substantial void underneath the roads surface, which would cause great risk if left unnoticed.

The council required a product that could urgently seal the void and return the strength and structural integrity back to the pipe, with minimal disruption occurring to the roads and the local community.

Smart Lock was chosen to achieve this goal, as the installation of its solution only required access to the manhole, allowing the bridge to remain open.

A local job

Five Smart Locks were placed in a series throughout the pipe before the steel road plates were removed. Smart Lock – working with Reline NZ – then filled the void and reinstated the road surface with confidence that the sewer retic was fully sealed, structurally sound and back to its working order.

Numerous local council representatives, governments and road agencies attended the site to observe the project’s process. Smart Lock says it is proud to have worked with Reline NZ and is pleased with the team’s work and safety management during the project, which had to deal with the added challenge of an earthquake occurring during operations.

Video footage of the damaged pipe that Smart Lock and Reline NZ worked together to ensure was back in working order.

Revolutionising the Australasian industry

Smart Lock is a company comprised of industry experts who understand that, when it comes to pipes and point repairs, a trenchless approach is a minimally invasive and cost-effective solution.

This knowledge led the company to develop a new ‘no dig’ and ‘no compromise’ product, helping to make trenchless affordable, easy and accessible. The solution was its namesake product, a ‘no cure’ point repair system that leverages mechanical and fibreglass technology.

The innovative solution makes repairing pipes easy with its three-step system: load, lock and leave, with curing complete in only 30 minutes. Although the coronavirus pandemic has slowed down infrastructure works around the globe, Smart Lock plans to continue facilitating the use of its products across the industry.

This article was featured in the June 2020 edition of Trenchless Australasia. To view the magazine on your PC, Mac, tablet or mobile device, click here.

For more information visit the Smart Lock website.

If you have news you would like featured in Trenchless Australasia contact Journalist Sophie Venz at

Major appointment at McConnell Dowell

The newly created position is a broadening of Mr Russo’s recent role as State Manager for South Australia and McConnell Dowell said his activities will include working with customers and businesses partners to grow the business and deliver projects.

Mr Russo, who has been with the company for more than 15 years, said he was thrilled to be leading the team across two states.

“I look forward to working with our local customers and business partners to deliver safe, smart and efficient projects that will improve the lives of our communities,” he said.

McConnell Dowell Managing Director Australia Jim Frith said Mr Russo was the “ideal person to assume this new and expanded role”.

Mr Russo will continue to be based in Adelaide.

For more information visit the McConnell Dowell website.

If you have company news you would like featured in Trenchless Australasia contact Journalist Sophie Venz at