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NAWIC Excellence Award winners, highly commended, and special merit award winners with NAWIC president Jenny Parker (far left)

Celebrating inspiring women in construction

Winners of the fourth annual Hays NAWIC Excellence Awards have been celebrated as “stellar achievers who are adding their unique voices to New Zealand’s construction industry” during a ceremony at the Auckland Town Hall on 17 August.


The awards honour the inspirational achievements women are making across New Zealand’s construction industry. With 50,000 more construction workers required within the next five years, it makes sense to encourage more women to work in construction and to highlight career paths available in this dynamic and fast-growing sector.

Women of the year

An aspiration to be the best in her field combined with a passion for empowering her staff saw Heidi Johnston of Windowmakers win the Professional Woman of the Year Award. Heidi’s commitment to sharing her knowledge with the industry, while encouraging her employees to upskill by establishing a culture of learning within her two aluminium joinery businesses, impressed the judges.

Pip Buunk from Fulton Hogan took out Tradeswoman of the Year for her ground-breaking role as New Zealand’s only registered female driller. Growing up with piling rigs in the backyard, Pip knew from an early age that she wanted to be a driller, just like her dad. Pip’s dedication to her work, along with her can-do attitude and thirst for progress, stood out to the judges. One of her life goals is to lead an all-female drilling crew.

Outstanding women

Stephanie Thompson of Stantec won the Outstanding Achievement in Design Award. Steph, the civil water team lead in Stantec’s Christchurch office, is noted for her delivery of several technically complex three-waters projects. In her role as project technical lead, Steph ensures that clear communication occurs between all disciplines so that no gaps arise in delivery. She is described as determined, driven and a future business leader.

Described as “an empowering leader who is taking action to inspire women in construction”, Gabrielle Bush of CPB Contractors won the Helen Tippett Award for actively promoting the participation of women in construction. Gabby is a project engineer on the Transmission Gully project north of Wellington. She chairs the Transmission Gully Network of Women which is designed to promote the performance of women working on the project, whilst providing networking and support. She has been involved with the NAWIC board in Australia and is currently the treasurer of the National Council of Women Hutt Valley branch.

Rising stars

Elisapeta Heta of Jasmax won the Rising Star Award (office-based category) for her outstanding work in engaging with mana whenua and growing the cultural capacity of the organisation. An NZIA board member, Elisapeta co-wrote Te Kawenata o Rata, a covenant between Nga Aho and the NZIA. She has co-chaired Architecture and Women since 2016 and is a founding member of Waka Maia at Jasmax. Driven by a desire to break through barriers for Maori and Pacifica, Elisapeta impressed the judges with her courageous attitude and her willingness to teach and engage with a wide range of people.

Amelia Gilbert-Milne of Brian Perry Civil and Jemma Dutton of CPB Contractors were joint winners of the Rising Star Award (site-based category).

Amelia provides geotechnical support for projects across New Zealand in her role. She is described as “future-focused with an inclusive leadership style”. Committed to her role as an empowering leader, Amelia has just published her first paper and is mentoring new graduates. Her authentic attitude and positive nature make her a natural role model for young women entering the construction industry.

Jemma is an environmental professional working within the civil construction and natural gas industry. She has developed a training programme for young graduates to bring them up to speed with New Zealand’s regulatory requirements. Judges noted her proactive approach to motivating teams. She is quick to think on her feet and makes efficient and accurate decisions within a fast-paced industry.

Excellent administrator

The Excellence in Construction Administration Award went to Emlyn Moore of Fletcher Construction. Emlyn joined the New Zealand International Convention Centre team to drive an improved safety culture, particularly within the subcontracted workforce. She has played an instrumental role in the dramatic improvement in the team’s attitude towards health and safety. Emlyn also had an 18-month stint with Fletchers in Papua New Guinea as the very first expatriate woman in the branch and led the drive for health and safety improvements.

Apprentice and student

Jessica Curtis, an apprentice electrician with Integrated Systems Design, won the Apprentice and Student Award for her commitment to problem solving and working through issues to a successful conclusion in a technically challenging role. The judges commented on Jessica’s commitment to giving back to the industry by attending careers events to share her experiences, while encouraging young women to consider a trade apprenticeship.

A number of highly commended and special merit awards were also made.


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