Congratulations to Mel Butler, our Stakeholder Engagement Consultant, for her dedication on the Northern Connector Project in South Australia. She received a Certificate of Appreciation at the recent Lendlease Mid-Year Event.

Mel Butler Recognised by Key Client Lendlease 


Lendlease recently held a mid-year celebration, inviting their clients and partners to thank and acknowledge various employees and consultants for their contribution to major projects.


Lendlease is a key client of WSP – we partner together across a variety of sectors, including Environment, Property & Buildings and Transport.


Mel has played a significant role in the $885 million Northern Connector project, which will be a six-lane, 15.5 km motorway providing a vital freight and commuter link between the Northern Expressway, South Road Superway and Port River Expressway in Adelaide. The project is scheduled for completion in late 2019.


Laura Culshaw from Lendlease has described Mel as being proactive, with a hands-on approach to working with the construction team. Mel is someone who will continually search for additional work she can prepare in advance, helping avoid delays when the work program is finalised. “It takes a lot of effort to stay ahead of the construction program and Mel never sits back and waits for the team to come to her – she is constantly in the construction office, working to support the construction team. She has put a lot of effort into personal relationships with residents to help manage issues as they arise. On several occasions, her personal approach has avoided issues from escalating. Mel is taking on an increasing role in managing events on site, which requires a lot of coordination across the teams. She also maintains the professional image of the project.”


Mel grew up on an ostrich farm in Port Lincoln and has always favoured the outdoors and nature. Port Lincoln is known for its remarkable natural environment, which Mel relished. She would spend her youth fishing with her dad, kicking the footy with her brothers and playing netball with her mum. The love of her surroundings, sport and most importantly family, had to be distanced when Mel embarked on her academic journey. She moved to South Australia’s capital, Adelaide to complete her Honours Degree in Urban and Regional Planning and was offered a scholarship to do her PhD which she accepted. During her PhD, Mel was presented with the opportunity to pursue her career in stakeholder engagement at WSP in 2016.


As part of her stakeholder engagement role, Mel has been intrinsic in assessing issues, and creating positive outcomes. On the Northern Connector project, Mel faces various challenges ranging from accommodating the needs of horses, to organising site visits, and coordinating Ministerial visits, to name a few. Her accomplishments in establishing and managing positive relationships with external stakeholders is key to ensuring the project’s success. Mel has worked hard to become their trusted advisor, and has shown time and time again, that she can be counted on to resolve issues.


The lessons Mel has learnt from this project so far, include:

  • Expect the unexpected – every stakeholder is different and unpredictable. You need to be ready for anything and stay calm in a crisis.
  • Don’t take things personally – as you are dealing with livelihoods and very emotive stakeholders everyday who have been impacted by the project.
  • Communication is key – whether it’s engineers, managers, politicians or the public, keeping everyone informed is imperative to the project’s success.


Further to the above, one of the more unique stakeholder issues on the project is accommodating the needs of horses rather than humans. As the project is closely situated to a horse training community, there were serious concerns that heavy vehicle traffic would negatively affect the horses.


Mel facilitated a collaborative approach with the community and developed strategies where the horses could continue to be trained safely and the project trucks deliveries could still take place. A combination of signage, speed limits, access times and most importantly having trusted relationships helped solve the problem.


Throughout her experience in stakeholder engagement Mel is confronted with a variety of obstacles, where projects move quickly as the nature of the role is fast paced and unpredictable.


Mel recognises the importance of understanding the construction program to ensure that communication materials are delivered in an effective and timely manner, and where possible, proactively identify any problems that could potentially impact on the project.


Mel’s motto is, “Don’t be scared to step outside of your comfort zone, it is where the magic happens!”


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