It all started with a barbeque. Bevan Wood, NZCCL owner and managing director, was entertaining friends al fresco one evening when there was a knock on the front door.
Bevan was new to the neighbourhood and thought it was probably a neighbour complaining about the noise but was pleasantly surprised to find Sir George Fistonich, founder of Villa Maria, standing at his door with a case of wine. “Welcome to the neighbourhood,” he said. The gesture, so typical of the gregarious George, kicked off a friendship – and 17 years later, Sir George couldn’t think of a better-qualified person to award his dream project: a world-class winery in Hawke’s Bay.
In the late 1990s, the founder and owner of New Zealand’s most iconic wine brand had a vision for a three-stage development of wineries.
The first was built in Marlborough in 2000, followed by a winery and vineyard park in Auckland in 2005. The third stage would be the most ambitious. In 2008, Te Awa Winery in the Hawke’s Bay, purchased by Villa Maria in 2017, was earmarked to become a world-first: the new winery would feature an innovative laboratory with state-of-the-art technology to take over the mechanical and processing work from the winemaker, enabling the vintners to focus on the grapes to extract every bit of quality. The world-class winery would bring five of Villa Maria’s winemakers together to make superior wine whilst maintaining their own individual winemaking styles. Plus it would showcase the brand’s extensive portfolio.
The new building, representing the best of Villa Maria, needed the best commercial construction builder. Sir George turned to his neighbour, Bevan.
With a challenging deadline of just under nine months, it was a construction project that would defy all the odds.
Bevan’s skill quickly emerged when he sketched out Sir George’s ideas.
What’s more, in the wake of the 2017 Marlborough earthquake, regulations for winery design and construction changed significantly.
It meant Te Awa’s initial structural engineering design, which was completed prior to the ’quake, had to be revised to meet the new, more robust standards. As a result, NZCCL laid one-metre-thick foundations and 500-600mm-thick concrete slabs to accommodate the 200 tanks – a 200mm increase from the previous regulations. The 200 stainless steel tanks ranged from 5,000L to 75,000L for the purposes of fermentation and wine storage until ready for bottling. The foundations required over 14,000m3 of ‘rafts’, which involved the construction of 1.2m-deep compacted, engineered aggregate gravel ‘rafts’, to create a stable platform, and more than 300 tonnes of reinforced steel to limit the consequences of liquefaction in the event of an earthquake.
Pouring concrete in the middle of the Hawke’s Bay summer proved a significant challenge given the need for concrete to cure slowly.
Time constraints, the weather and the sheer volume of concrete required, meant that 25 concrete trucks had to be rolled in from all over the North Island to conduct night pours, including on weekends and holidays to meet the tight programme … over 2000m3 of concrete was poured over the project’s entirety and in the midst of all the other construction activity.
Beyond the foundations, the project scope included construction of the main tank hall to house 200 stainless steel wine tanks of varying sizes, and two large barrel halls.
The winery also required the development of a receival area where the incoming fruit is processed, and all the associated services, including a refrigeration plant and main switchboard. The construction of the wastewater plant, which treats all of the winery waste, and ensuring that it met all of the necessary legislative requirements was also a considerable component of the work carried out.
A project of this size required significant manpower. Sourcing skilled labour in the midst of a building boom is a common struggle throughout the construction industry. Ensuring that all 130 contractors were trained in health and safety whilst working against the clock proved yet another challenge that Bevan and the team were able to manage efficiently.
While the project had numerous challenges, the full engagement of the project team, including NZCCL, the client, consultants and contractors, meant that every obstacle was overcome. “The 600-hectare greenfield site was expertly transformed into a world-class winery in less than nine months in time for harvest season, and within budget,” says Sir George.
Bevan’s skills were integral to overcoming the multiple obstacles that presented themselves throughout the project’s journey. His draftsmen skills, a rare talent for a builder, enabled a quick turnaround of construction plans when changes were required, of which there were numerous. His flair for cost-efficiencies, along with his flexible approach and ability to work closely with the client and the project consultants, ensured the project was ultimately bound for success.
14,000m3 site excavation and gravel raft
2,415m3 of concrete poured
318 tonnes of reinforced steel
9,342m2 floor area
8 months from breaking ground to operational
354.6 Tonnes of Structural Steel
NZCCL and Villa Maria are now looking ahead to their next collaboration, which involves the construction of office space and a cutting-edge laboratory as stage two of the Hawke’s Bay winery.