Beach to boardroom: meet the people behind Civil Trades

01 Mar 2024

The careers of Mike Wilson and Phil Bull are testament to the difference a commitment to training and development can make.

Between them, they have worked across 10 countries and been part of some of New Zealand’s most significant infrastructure projects, from surveying for the first Māngere Bridge to re-opening Hawke’s Bay and East Coast roads after Cyclone Gabrielle.

Now they are giving back to the civil construction industry through the national Civil Trades certification programme, which aims to give skilled civil tradespeople the recognition they deserve as masters of their craft.

Mike is a member of the Civil Trades board and Phil is working as one of 10 evaluators nationwide who review applications and help to decide who has met the standards required to be able to call themselves a Certified Civil Tradesperson.

We spoke with both of them to find out what they love about the industry and why they contribute countless hours to making sure people with the skill and desire to take the next step in their career have the opportunity to pursue Civil Trades certification.

Mike Wilson, Civil Trades Board Member


“Our industry is full of a lot of good buggers doing a lot of good things, but they aren’t always celebrated for it,” Mike says.

Recognition of the skill and expertise that goes into the industry is one of the reasons he believes in Civil Trades and a big driver behind his decision to contribute his time to representing small to medium businesses on the organisation’s board, alongside his day job as a Construction Manager for Quality Roading and Services (QRS) in Wairoa.

When we caught up with Mike, he was fresh back from a community event celebrating progress towards re-opening Te Reinga Bridge across the Wairoa River near Ruakituri. His team has been re-building the bridge after Cyclone Gabrielle and he says seeing it on the cusp of re-opening means a lot.

“I really got a kick out of this morning and seeing the role we all play in re-connecting the community.

“Our industry is one where you can see the results of your work at the end of the day.”

Mike’s journey into infrastructure began in 1999, when he picked up a carpentry apprenticeship with the New Zealand Army.

In the years since he has built huts in East Timor, police stations in the Solomon Islands, mining camps in the Pilbara in Western Australia, and assisted with recovery efforts and construction of an industrial park in Niue following Cyclone Heta. More recently, he and the team at QRS have worked on many of the roads across Hawke’s Bay and East Cape, including helping with the mammoth rebuild required after Cyclone Gabrielle.

He completed his Civil Trades certification in 2018, with endorsements in Road Maintenance, Earthworks, Road Construction and Non-Structural Concrete, and says he benefited almost immediately.

“Having that ticket and being able to take it with you wherever you go really helps with job security and also getting a pay rise. For people who have worked their way through the industry and got their Level 4 qualifications, it’s the cherry on top.”

In the year ahead Mike says he and the board want to help take Civil Trades to another level

“I just really want the big buyers – the Waka Kotahis and councils – to put their weight behind it so that when it’s part of a tender submission it is truly recognised and valued. That’s already happening but we have some work to do to build that Civil Trades brand even more.”

When he’s not working he is out with his wife tending the 600 lime trees on their lifestyle property, fishing from the beach or out on the ocean, or hauling his boat out to Lake Waikeremoana to take his 10-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter biscuiting.

His oldest daughter is now in her 20s and is completing the second year of a civil engineering graduate programme with HEB – an accomplishment Mike is exceptionally proud of.

Phil Bull, Civil Trades Evaluator

Phil is responsible for evaluating people who apply to become Civil Trades certified with endorsements in Road Maintenance, Road Construction, Pipeline Construction and Maintenance, Surfacing, Earthworks and Piling.

It’s a role that requires a broad set of skills, but Phil possesses more experience than most, having been in the civil construction industry for more than 60 years.

He began in 1963 as a field assistant with the Ministry of Works, helping civil engineers to conduct surveys for infrastructure projects in and around Auckland, including state highways and the initial contour survey for Paremoremo Prison.

Since then he has worked for a range of companies, across countries including England, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Libya, and in disciplines ranging from surveying and lab testing through to road surfacing and training. Among his proudest achievements include surveying for the first Māngere Bridge in Auckland, running his own asphalt company for 10 years, and leading the creation of Fulton Hogan’s North Harbour branch – which worked on some of the city’s largest motorway projects.

“I’ve definitely had some great times and met some good people across the industry. I’ll always remember doing surveys of Omaha Beach in the 60s before houses were there to establish if offshore dredging was causing erosion – it was a lot of fun surfing while waiting for low tide, which is when our work could be done.”

Phil says he would like to see more people doing certification because the recognition is great for their future career prospects, as well as for their employers who gain from having a highly skilled and certified workforce when bidding for work.

“So many people in the industry have all these skills and knowledge they could pass on but they are nearly always doing it without recognition. Once they get certified they stand a bit taller, a little bit straighter and they really feel they have achieved something.”

While some people worry about going through the Civil Trades evaluation process, Phil promises it “isn’t scary at all”.

“I usually send them an email letting them know I have been asked to do an evaluation. I review their documentation and then it takes about an hour to speak with them and their two nominated referees to determine that they have the acumen required.

“I tell people doing Civil Trades that they don’t need to get stressed because they have already done the hard work. They have proven they have the nous to finish their Connexis Level 4 qualifications and they have already decided they want to improve themselves.”

Outside of his role as an evaluator, Phil runs his own consultancy business and is busy inspiring the next generation of civil construction workers as a dad and now grandfather. He has three adult sons working as civil contractors and he enjoys spending as much time as he can with his two grandkids.

“They can be little buggers but they are great,” he laughs. “The nine-year-old is operating his dad’s digger already.”


Board members

  • David Howard, Managing Director, Construction Contracts Limited (Chair)
  • Alan Pollard, Chief Executive, Civil Contractors New Zealand
  • Andrew Harland, General Manager Customer Engagement, Connexis
  • Mike Wilson, Construction Manager, QRS
  • Marianne Rogers, General Manager, Geovert
  • Graeme Couper, Training & Development Manager, Downer NZ
  • Fiona Malloch, National Field Team Manager, Connexis (alternate director for Andrew Harland)
  • Leeann Clark, Partner – Transport Services, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (alternate director for Marianne Rogers)
  • Peter Wairau, People and Capabilities Manager, QRS (alternate director for Mike Wilson)

Office team

  • Rebecca Fox, Workforce Development Manager, Civil Contractors New Zealand
  • Heather Clayton, Administrator, Civil Trades


  • Shane Haynes
  • David Turnbridge
  • Eric Mace
  • Garry Adcock
  • Nigel Green
  • Phil Bull
  • Rob Harris
  • Ross McArthur
  • Snow Edgar
  • Peter Sleeman

* Special thanks to Gary Lock who has recently left the evaluator team.





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