Veronica is the Wellington City Council engineer overseeing the development of the new bike and walking paths and seawalls around Evans Bay.
In Papua New Guinea, she drove an armoured vehicle as the risks associated with getting to sites included potential ambush. For safety reasons, and in case they had to get away quickly, they were trained to be able to drive and brake at high speed – skills she fortunately doesn’t need in Wellington.
In Western Australia, where she worked on new mining-related roads, infrastructure, and camps in the desert, getting to the site was two hours in a tiny plane followed by a five-hour drive.
“It has been so easy working here with the project just 10 minutes from the central city,” she says.
Originally from Bolivia, her early work involved putting in roads to indigenous communities or retaining walls and flood protection to prevent villages from being washed away.
Working in tough terrain – high in the Andes or tropical flood-prone lowlands– it was not unusual for her to have to hike several hours to remote sites.
She supervised the building of roads that allowed villages to get potatoes and other crops to the city markets where previously the only option was carrying things out on foot.
“Some didn’t even have a foot bridge, so could potentially be cut-off for days or weeks when rivers were too high to cross.”
Veronica grew up and studied in Cochabamba. Bolivia’s third largest city, it is located in a valley in the Andes and has a population of about a million.
As a child, she would sometimes go on jobs with her father who was a newspaper photographer and was always fascinated with how things like roads and bridges were built.
When she graduated as a civil engineer, she worked in local government for about five years