Meet our Delivery Director, Ed Matthews

Meet Ed Matthews – Delivery Director North, globe-trotter and bread-making enthusiast who is heading up our Northern Civil Works Program between Whetstone and Gowrie.

December 22, 2021

Ed Matthews - Delivery Director North

We recently sat down with Ed to talk about his background, what he finds rewarding about working at Inland Rail and what he likes to do in his spare time.

Tell us a bit about your professional background.

I’m a civil engineer and started my career in Johannesburg. I worked in mine surface infrastructure in and around gold and platinum mines in South Africa. After a few years I decided I’d like to take a break and decided to go to the United Kingdom (UK) for a ‘gap year’ as I have a British passport. My employer at the time had a different idea and said if you want to go to the UK that’s marvellous, but can you work for us in Europe from our office in Wales, which I did.

During that time, the best site-based assignment I had was bringing an old lead-zinc mine back into production in Greece. It was right on the edge of the Aegean Sea, mined by the Ancient Greeks and steeped in history.

After this time, my civil engineer girlfriend (now wife) and I moved between Johannesburg, Mozambique and Madagascar before an opportunity came up to move to Western Australia where I worked to help recover a nickel project, followed by a stint in Jakarta looking after nickel and coal projects.

From 2009, I went to Moranbah, Queensland for the first time as project manager for BHP’s first new coal mine in 20 years, went back to Indonesia to continue to progress some coal projects in Borneo, then returned to Queensland working for BHP in major coal projects.

After 20 years with BHP I thought perhaps I should broaden by horizons a little but didn’t broaden them very far because I stared working for BHP spin-off, South32 down in Wollongong. I was in the role for about three weeks when COVID hit, which made building relationships with my project and operations teams from my home office in Brisbane quite difficult.

The project also had some significant environmental challenges, so after looking at how to reconfigure the development opportunity and setting up a team to do that, I found there was more mining work than my kind of work so decided to take some time to decide what to do next.

Why did you decide to join Inland Rail?

My 20 or so years with BHP were heavily driven by projects tailored to delivering profitable outcomes for shareholders, so when the opportunity came up with Inland Rail, which has a very different set of drivers, it piqued my interest.

Yes, Inland Rail needs to deliver a railway that’s going to be useable, efficient and uplift freight movements around Australia, but its drivers are economic rather than profit-based which fascinates me. It changes the entire decision-making process, what’s important and the purpose for why one is working.

My past projects have all been about what you deliver and how much profit the business can make from the physical infrastructure. While it’s important at Inland Rail we build a railway line that will provide future value to the economy, it’s not just about building a railway line. It’s about building capacity and opportunity in the communities we work in and, wider than that, it’s an enabler of future opportunities.

How we go about building Inland Rail is just as important as what we build. If we’re not aligned to the what, we’ll never get around to the how. That changes the dynamic in terms of project decision-making.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of working on this project?

Both of my parents were teachers and growing up there was very much a sense of service – doing something for the greater good, rather than just doing something to make a profit for yourself.

After 20 odd years of working on projects and building mines that make the rich richer, I’m enjoying doing something more meaningful.

What I find generally rewarding in my work is building teams that can work through and overcome problems. Not just internal teams who directly report to me, but wider than this. Inland Rail is not going to be built without the support of a much wider team which includes the stakeholders and communities we work with.

I find true satisfaction in seeing the combined resolution of issues. It’s not necessarily about making everyone happy all of the time, but getting people to the point where they understand and accept that concessions need to be made and recognise value in helping achieve an engineering or social solution.

What can the community expect to see in coming months?

In coming months, the team will work to finalise the draft Border to Gowrie Environmental Impact Statement for consideration by the Queensland Coordinator-General and address the feedback the Office is providing.

Our preferred civil works contractor will also need to take our preliminary designs to the next level, and they will be seeking additional information to inform detailed design. This will include surveys and assessment-based activities.

The preferred contractor will also start to become more active in the community to understand local capability and how that capability can be engaged to support project delivery. As part of this we will look to set up ‘meet the contractor’ events in the coming months.

What do you like doing in your time off?

I’ve got two children – 13 and 15 – so my weekends are largely taken up chauffeuring them from one sporting event to the next. When I’m not doing that I like getting out into nature – camping and bushwalking. My wife and I used to do a lot of scuba-diving, but having kids made that a bit hard. Now the kids are getting a bit older I’d like to introduce them to it as well.

Five or so years ago, I decided to try my hand at baking sourdough – well before it became a cool thing to do during COVID. Typically, on a Saturday or Sunday I’ll bake a loaf of bread.

Baking sourdough is interesting because you’re not entirely in control. It takes me out of my engineering/project management comfort zone to do something I can’t control…with varying results!

IMAGE: Inland Rail Delivery Director North Ed Matthews 

December 22, 2021


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