David Fowler, WSP’s General Manager - People, says the company’s 2019 engagement survey revealed that employees wanted to make a positive difference in the communities they live and work in.
“Our people are passionate about the communities they have helped shape and were already making a strong contribution within them. Providing paid leave across the organisation enables us to really leverage the impact,” he says.
He adds that with WSP having 1,900 staff working across 40 offices and laboratories around New Zealand, the potential to contribute is huge.
To celebrate the launch of the initiative, WSP staff headed into their local communities for a half-day waterway clean-up. In Auckland this saw WSP combine forces with Auckland Council’s Healthy Waters to clean up Pt England beach. Other team efforts included Wellington staff teaming up with Fulton Hogan to clean up Petone Beach, Tauranga staff working alongside Bay of Plenty Regional Council to clean up Matakana Island and Lake Rotorua with Rotorua Lakes Council.
Historically WSP, which evolved from the Public Works Department, the Ministry of Works and Opus, has strong ties to communities and a track record of environmental benefits and facilities that can be shared by the whole community.
These include the rowing facilities on Lake Ruataniwha, half a million trees planted in Twizel, through to a donation of services on Rotorua’s world-class BMX track which opened in 2018.
WSP staff have donated their time to a number of initiatives including include tree planting and stream clean-ups, skills-based humanitarian volunteering such as Bridges to Prosperity and Engineers Without Borders, and education outreach to attract more students to STEM subjects.
Fowler says there are huge benefits to enabling staff to develop meaningful connections through volunteer work including wellbeing, social interaction, engagement and professional development.
Mapping the world
In November almost 100 WSP staff volunteered 200 hours to participate in a global Mapathon, to make online map improvements to disaster-prone areas. The process involves teams tracing buildings and roads from satellite images that prompt humanitarian organisations and local volunteers in the area to add details and create maps with the data provided.
The New Zealand contingent joined international colleagues to map for communities in the Philippines and India. The Philippines are particularly vulnerable to earthquakes, cyclones and volcanic activity and the mapping areas in Sorsogon was carried out for disaster risk reduction and preparedness.
In India, WSP mapped G-plot (a small Sundarbans area) in the state of West Bengal, an area affected by severe flooding and subjected to irreversible ecological and economic damage. WSP staff in Manchester also took part with the University of Manchester Huckathon to help map for the delivery of approximately 60 prosthetic limbs in Northern Uganda that has been impacted by years of civil war. Overall, WSP volunteers mapped over 18,000 buildings and 2,000 roads.
Ryan Macveigh, WSP Service Line Leader of GIS, organised the local event and believes the paid volunteering day will help facilitate more regular Mapathons.
“There is huge opportunity for our people to contribute to improving the world’s ever-evolving digital map. It’s also a way we can bring in university and high school students with an interest in STEM to share knowledge and give them the chance to contribute to something on a global scale,” he says.