Ross Waugh is a familiar name and a friendly face in the Asset Management World in Aotearoa. Based in Timaru, Ross is the founder and director of Waugh Infrastructure Management Limited.
Ross is the newest IPWEA NZ Member to be named a Life Member of the organisation. Ross has shown a dedication to the industry, demonstrating outstanding and distinguished service to IPWEA NZ and its predecessors, as well as to the public asset engineering and management industry.
To mark the occasion, we had a chat to Ross about his career in the public asset management sphere, as well as what he sees as the major challenges and inspiration for the industry.
Asset Management seems like a natural fit for Ross Waugh, who started his career 40 years ago as a Civil Engineer working in the Timaru local government space of roads, townships, water, wastewater and more. Timaru had installed wastewater systems early, leading to a requirement for asset management. Working with Hansen Software, (now Infor PS), Ross was an early pioneer of standardised data and asset management and infrastructure systems.
When the requirement for Asset Management Plans was introduced in the late 1990s, as a result of the Local Government Act, Councils around New Zealand were faced with the task of writing Asset Management Plans, often for the first time. Ross was able to turn his attention to helping Local Councils and started consulting at his own firm, Waugh Infrastructure Management. Consulting was a natural extension of his previous work, supporting an organisation to support communities. His move to consultancy created space for him to spend time with his family and as a result, Waugh Infrastructure Management still reflects strong family values today.
Ross’s involvement in IPWEA NZ started in 1990 when he joined the Association of Local Government Engineers and he’s stayed connected ever since. From completing courses such as contract and 3910 training, being the face of IPWEA NZ’s first digital badge course, AM 101 – Introduction to Asset Management, and with the help of staff and team members authoring sections of the 2010 and 2015 IIMM, Ross is deeply embedded in our organisation.
Now, Ross is pleased to support IPWEA NZ on a larger scale. Waugh Infrastructure Management is a Corporate Partner, providing sector expertise to the organisation and assisting in highlighting the importance of asset management in public works infrastructure. Waugh Infrastructure Management also supports many IPWEA NZ conferences, forums, and branch meetings. Ross believes networking is one of the keys to successful business and life in general. ‘Professional Connectedness’ leads to collaborative relationships and partnerships, and often innovative thinking.
A reflection of Ross’s unassuming attitude, Life Membership took him totally by surprise. In his words ‘I wasn’t even going to attend the AGM!’ On LinkedIn, his accolade garnered over 45 comments, 180 reactions and 6,578 impressions, demonstrating his connection to the Asset Management community in Aotearoa (and of course overseas). We’re delighted to welcome Ross to the Life Member Club and we are pleased to be able to share in his success.
Thinking about the future
When asked about the biggest challenges facing the sector, Ross’s first answer is ‘people’. With many of the workforce being of the ‘Baby Boom Era’ and now preparing to retire, the challenge is: How do we get skilled, trained, and engaged staff?
His second answer is linked to the first. Across Aotearoa, the level of expenditure on public infrastructure has doubled and is set to increase further over the next decade. The question is, without the people to deliver infrastructure and asset management projects, how will we deliver the infrastructure required to meet our desired levels of service?
The third issue he sees is discontinuity. We do a lot of talking, but not a lot of doing. As a population, and as an industry, there needs to be a mindset shift about the way we do things. From this point in our history, ‘nothing will stay the same,’ Ross mentions. With the realities of climate change now setting in, there will be changes in the frequency of severe weather events, in the ways we live our lives and the way our population grows. With that, our design standards need to change along with our urban planning, management of rivers and much much more.
Staying grounded and inspired
Ross is inspired by helping communities, something which is pretty evident in any conversation that you may have with him. One of his reasons for his continued commitment to the Asset Management sector, is really the people that it helps.
If you provide good infrastructure, including telecommunication networks, roads, water, sanitation, housing, and schools, it benefits everyone in society from the poorest to the wealthiest.
A few years into consulting, Ross came to the realisation that helping clients, councils, governments with asset management was his ‘why’ or ‘purpose’ in life.
‘I had arrived at this place just by journeying along, almost by ‘accident’ as it were, but it was a very good self-realisation to have, as it has kept me learning, growing, engaged and enjoying the work that I do’.