News | 15 November 2023
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Behind the scenes with a Te Matapihi Central Library worker

From Tākina to Te Matapihi Central Library – Oliver Smyth had no idea that his move to the capital to study would turn into the opportunity to work on two significant buildings.

Man in a an orange high vis with a blue hard hat standing infront of a crane.
Te Matapihi worker, Oliver Smyth.

Originally from Auckland, Oliver, who is affectionately named ‘Stroller’ by his team at Te Matapihi, came to the capital to do his Bachelor of Construction Management, majoring in quantity surveying.

He says that he knew Wellington had a lot of construction projects going on that would align with his studies.

“I wanted to get out of Auckland and knew Wellington was pretty exciting, so I’m happy to be here working in the field that I’m studying."

He claims that when he arrived in the city, he accidentally stumbled into Tākina when it was under construction and ended up taking a job as labourer for LT McGuinness.

“I ended up doing quality assurance work and had to look at every little corner, every little speck, make sure there were no scratches and see that everything was functioning as it should.”

Following his role at Tākina, he was given the opportunity to start a new part-time job at Te Matapihi while he completes full-time studies.

In 2020, work began on future proofing the Central Library. Wellington is in the middle of a once in a generation transformation, with Wellingtonians asking for a vibrant, safe, resilient capital city. The Central Library is one of the Council’s key investments.

Oliver has the responsibility of managing the reinforcement works and says this is the perfect role for him.

“I look after all the reinforcement work on site, all the complex combinations of steel bars for the beams and the column capitals. Being one of Wellington’s larger re-strengthening jobs, these beams and capitals are so important to get right. The tonnage of steel on the project is enormous. I’ve got to organise and coordinate where they go and when, as well as ensuring this is executed to the plans and details.

"It’s so fascinating to see such a large structural network being developed right below your feet. This all means I get to see the theoretical side of my studies and the practical side in the work that I do on site. I also get to see how it all works from a management standpoint as well, because it’s awesome to see how much we as a team can progress in one day. It’s been quite fun, I love it.”

Steel rods grouped together in a basement.
Reinforcement work in the basement. Image from LT McGuinness.

He says that every day is different, and that keeps him on his toes. 

“At the start of each day, the structural manager will point me in the right direction and then mentor me throughout the day. Every day is different, sometimes there’s an urgent delivery in 20 minutes, or I’ll need to read and comprehend the structural details of our works, or have to coordinate with the crane crew to get materials down from the roof. It all changes pretty quickly.

“I always keep my eye on the work they’re doing on the ground with the beams and keep in time with how they’re progressing. It's important to quality assure their work - you don’t want to risk pouring concrete when not everything is in place."

Working in a busy environment while studying may be too much for some people, but Oliver gets his energy from his team and being able to rebuild a key building in the city, he says.

“There’s so many people we need to work with at one time, which makes it really interesting, that’s part of the enjoyment I guess. My favourite part is the start of the day when the whole team comes together and we do warm up exercises, I’ve never experienced that before and it really boosts the morale of everyone.

“Even just being in the building is pretty special, you stand on concrete that literally wasn’t there two weeks ago, and look up at steel frames that didn’t exist in the building before. It’s pretty special for sure. I’m very lucky to be working here.”

As a new Wellingtonian, Oliver is excited to see how the building will evolve.

“I haven’t seen the library before, I’ve only seen it through the hoardings and photos. I can’t wait to see it come to life from start to finish, it’s so cool. There’s just so much of this going on in the city and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon, I can’t wait to see how it will change and come to life.”

Black writing on a yellow background that reads 'Positively Pōneke'.

Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui (our Central Library) is being co-designed with mana whenua and will also house our City Archives, Service Centre, and Capital E integrated services, and will have an on-site cafe. It will be a modern, fit-for-purpose community hub, opening opportunities for knowledge. It has the visitor experience of connection and belonging as its central goal.

Check other interesting articles as part of our City Building series. Or, find out more about Positively Pōneke on our website.