The Garden City is heading straight for a building boom; new plans, new buildings and new spaces are all on the cards. Workers and their tools are becoming a customary part of the visual landscape, so much so that we barely blink an eye except to give a cursory groan and perhaps an expletive or two, if said construction gets in our way.
However, not often do we think of the “who” and the “what” that transforms an empty space into a new building, or rubble into a piece of art. So here we take an in-depth look into one Christchurch-born and bred company that is giving much of the city a literal lift to new heights.
The company, Accessman, is New Zealand’s leading specialist hire-company that supplies Elevated Work Platforms (EWPs) for much of the building industry. Within Christchurch’s current climate it is doing its part to bring back, not just infrastructure, but character into the shaken city.
One recent project that certainly lifted the spirits of many a Cantabrian, involved a photographic installation, “A homage to lost spaces”, at the quake-damaged Cranmer Courts.
The much-loved historic building had been put under a demolition order by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA); but a young artist, 27-year-old Mike Hewson, hoped to prolong the building’s life with his unique photographic display.
He was sharing a studio, with his brother Andrew in the now condemned buildings when the February 2011, 6.3 magnitude, quake hit. They and the various other artists including Tony de Lautour, Sam Harrison and David Marshall were forced to flee.
In June this year, Mike, a qualified engineer turned practicing artist, decided to pay homage to what had been lost. He used the help of Accessman to lift a series of photographs onto the walls and windows of the building, turning the former Christchurch Normal School, which was opened in 1876, into a huge canvas of his art.
With the help of Accessman, Mike covered an area of between 120sqm and 130sqm with the mixed media images on plywood. The photos depicted many of the artists inside the building, before the earthquake becoming a visual memory of what had once been.
Mike was in Western Australia planning the Cranmer Courts project and was recommended by a friend at SCAPE (organisers of the Christchurch Public Arts Biennale), who mentioned that Accessman had been very generous in donating equipment on hire to other public arts projects around the city since the February 2010 earthquake.
“As my project was a self-funded initiative, it relied in part on the generous support of other parties. I was very grateful that Accessman were able to support the project with exactly the right equipment for the job,” Mike says.
The Cranmer Courts suffered significant damage in the earthquakes. The building layout, surrounding terrain and damage to the building made it very difficult to safely access the exterior of the building where the artwork was to be installed. With the possibility of further earthquakes, it was important the access method positioned Mike out from the face of the building, with the base of the platform configured in a safe location away from the structure. The only applicable piece of equipment for this job was the largest available ‘knuckle boom’ EWP.
“The project had a very aggressive schedule which only allowed a four day window to install the work. There were also obvious risks with installing the work on the earthquake-damaged structure, given the potential for other violent aftershocks. As a result it was essential that I had top-quality and well-maintained equipment in order to tackle the project; Accessman met this requirement with flying colours.”
The staff at Accessman had kindly visited the project site in Christchurch while Mike was still in Western Australia to check the equipment they were recommending was suitable for the job. In this case they provided the Nifty HR21 all-terrain EWP.
“The EWP arrived in great condition and performed perfectly for the duration of the project. It was a great piece of kit. I absolutely couldn’t have done the job without it. The work was installed in a manner similar to wall papering, hence I required hand access to every area of the installation area. Some of these locations were both a long distance vertically and horizontally from exterior of the building, making it almost impossible to access safely using any other means.
“The EWP enabled me to very rapidly negotiate the face the building and manoeuvre around the base of the building to reach the other faces of the work. The work cage of the platform also enabled me to easily carry up and down the equipment that I required to install the work.
“It was a huge project for me to pull off and the feedback from around the world has been very positive. Many thanks to the people at Accessman; I am very grateful for their support of the arts and I look forward to working with them on new projects for Christchurch city in the future.”
The end project resulted in a beautiful, nostalgic representation of history meets present day reality. The rawness of the damaged building, combined with the
simple yet pristine, strategically placed photography, drew much admiration from the Christchurch public.
An uplifting history
Accessman has a long history in the Christchurch community and has played a large role within the construction industry – that of machine supplier to many well-known construction companies in the region.
Like so many successful businesses in New Zealand it started from humble beginnings. Back in 1994, the current managing director and founder of the company, Ross Pickersgill recognised a gap in the market.
“At the time the construction industry was in need of a new way to increase profitability… and I was sick of scrambling about on scaffolds.” His answer to the problem was the purchase of his first machine – a scissor lift. “It was a new concept at the time, with only half a dozen scissor lifts in Christchurch at that stage,” he says.
The scissor lift made working at heights safe, and it helped companies to increase their productivity by removing the need to continually build scaffolding. This lift combined with Ross’ astute business plan has led to the growth of one of New Zealand’s leading Elevated Work Platform hire companies. “It was about developing the market, challenging and educating the industry around the economic benefits and productivity these machines provide.”
Ross’ hard work, combined with a clear goal and determination to just keep on going, has certainly paid off. Today the Accessman Group has a fleet of some 350 machines, making it one of the largest specialised equipment hire companies in the South Island.
Accessman has spread, with branches and franchises from as far afield as Wellington to Southland, truly making its mark in the industry not just here in Christchurch but across New Zealand.
Its stature in the industry as a go-to-company has been recognised by numerous awards. In 2010 and 2011 it was named the Specialist Hire Company Branch of the Year. This award is part of the Hire Industry Association of New Zealand’s hire excellence awards and is a sure stamp of industry approval.
Receiving such an accolade is no easy achievement as companies from all over the country undergo a tough judging process based on a written nomination, customer testimonials, a health and safety inspection, site visits and a mystery shopper. But Ross says it’s certainly a privilege to receive the awards. “It gives us credibility and is one step further in recognising success.”
Unlocking to success
Ross is rather modest about his success – he simply attributes it to good luck. “Success is a lot to do with timing and having the right people in the right places. Often you are
faced with a leap or leave decision – we decided to leap.”
He lets out another secret to success – having local knowledge. It is a business imperative that not only do you know your business, but know just how it applies to the area – something Accessman makes a priority.
All its branches are run by locals to ensure vital local knowledge is on hand. “They know the environments and conditions in which the customers need to work, giving them the ability to provide specific advice to each situation.”
Ross says Accessman endeavours to provide its clients with the equipment that will enable them to get the job done exactly as they want, whether it’s for a piece of art, a concert or a multi-storey apartment complex.
“Accessman goes to great lengths to ensure customers don’t simply get “what they want but what they need. We promise to provide only the best for our customers with our range of good quality machines that are well-maintained and serviced regularly.”
Safety a priority
Those who are a little wary of heights need not fear, as Accessman ticks all the boxes when it comes to safety. Not only does it follow safety guidelines to the letter, but because of its excellent track-record it plays an advisory role within the Hire Industry Association of New Zealand (HIANZ), developing the Codes of Practice for the operation of elevated work platforms, such as Scissor Lifts & Cherry Pickers.
For their efforts in the safety arena, Accessman is also an accredited Gold
Card trainer, giving it the license to train industry users to gain a national OSH standardised qualification – the Silvercard Operator Licence, which indicates the holder is more than competent to operate access equipment safely.
While Accessman is currently in full business flight, Ross says the journey here was certainly not turbulence free. There are, of course, the challenges of the “everyday norm of running a business”.
In today’s climate he says one of the biggest challenges is finding the right people for the job. “It is a challenge to find suitable candidates, there are not many around who are of the right quality. But he says his solution is to ensure his staff are well looked after by the company, ensuring a loyal and well-experienced employee base who ensure clients receive the best of Accessman service.
And then of course there was the recession and the ongoing challenges this continues to pose for many in business. Ross is once again pragmatic in his response, saying the key to survival was to simply keep plodding onwards. “The recession did knock us around a bit. Not many were hiring but we hunkered down, cut down on expenses and went into survival mode.”
Of course, he reluctantly admits that while the earthquakes were certainly devastating, as the demolition continues and the rebuild begins to get underway, business has grown.
Ross points out the new CBD plan holds potential for the future shape of the city – something Accessman will undoubtedly be a part of. His promise to Christchurch is that within these tough times, as the city looks to rebuild, he and his team will provide the finest machines to ensure top-quality work is done.
“It will be a period of stablisation and reconstruction in the city,” he says. And Accessman will do its utmost to be a part of this evolving environment. There have been significant additions to the fleet during the past 12 months and given the continued demand we will no doubt see further shipments arriving.”
Ten reasons to hire from Accessman
1) You are hiring quality machines Accessman machines undergo regular maintenance and are serviced and checked thoroughly every six-months to obtain safety clearance certificates. Accessman machines are also checked to ensure they are in top condition for the customer.
2) Helping you work at height is all it does Accessman is a specialist in access equipment; it understands the issues and challenges that you face and they know the best way to get the job done quickly.
3) Help when you need it Accessman understands that sometimes you need to work around the clock to get your job done; so it provides a 24/7 breakdown and call out service to keep you mobile.
4) Availability Accessman has one of the largest range of access equipment in New Zealand; so when you need a job done, it will have a machine for it.
5) Your safety is their first priority Accessman’s crew is passionate about ensuring that you have the knowledge and resources to safely use their machines. Safety harnesses are provided free of charge.
6) Expert advice Accessman has been servicing the access hire industry for more than 15 years; so you know that you are dealing with an experienced company that knows how to achieve results.
7) Free training is provided with every hire To ensure you have the know-how to work safely and efficiently, Accessman provides a free operational and safety induction upon delivery.
8) Minimal downtime guaranteed The Accessman crew includes service technicians and truck drivers; so in the unlikely event of a breakdown they can quickly respond. Should the service technicians be unable to fix a breakdown onsite, they will immediately swap it for a functioning machine to ensure you have minimal downtime guaranteed.
9) Local knowledge All Accessman branches are run by local people from your area, they know the environments and conditions in which you need to work so they can provide advice specific to your requirements.
10) There are no hidden charges
An Accessman quote is exactly that; it is not an estimate – what it quotes, is what you pay. Accessman rates also include all environmental charges, so you know what it will cost before you begin.
T 0800 2 GET HIGH (0800 243 844)