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A day in the life of Gerard Tolson

Gerard Tolson,

Project Manager, Devonport

A day in the life of Gerard Tolson can be unpredictable depending on what projects he is currently working on. He has, however, successfully manoeuvred through many over his 10 years at TasWater as a project manager.

Gerard started working in the utilities sector in 1984 as a tradesman. He was a fitter and welder and worked on numerous projects that helped secure the water supply for customers in the North-West of Tasmania before becoming a project manager in 2009. Over the years Gerard has obtained an Advanced Diploma in Mechanical Engineering, A Cert 4 in Project Management and just last month celebrated the completion of his Diploma in Project management.

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(Gerard pictured above with colleagues in 1992 working at Paloona Reservoir.)

Gerard is now based in the Devonport office and can be overseeing up to six different projects at a time. He manages mostly construction related work including capital works such as dam upgrades, the building of new reservoirs, water treatment plant upgrades, pipe line upgrades or the installation of new pipe lines. 

Managing a project can involve a lot of different tasks some of which include obtaining council approval and permits (where required), managing expenditures, processing monthly claims, site visits, building relationships with contactors and signing off completed work after assessing its quality.

Gerard’s trade background assists him with site visits and ensuring the construction being complete is up to TasWater standard in terms of quality. Site visits also allow project managers to ensure the project is progressing as planned and is on track in terms of the agreed competition date.

Gerard is also required to complete a final inspection on the project site once completed and issue a certificate of practical completion once contractual obligations have been met.

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(Gerard pictured above on site at Girdlestone reservoir, Forth - One of his recent projects.)

Tasmanian weather is unpredictable and weather can have big impacts on projects in terms of delays. Most contracts for work have an estimated or required completion date but factors outside of contractors control can cause unexpected delays. This is where Gerard steps in as he is also responsible for contract variations and extensions of time that may be required. This can also include adding additional works if jobs arise that were not believed to be initially required.

Gerard is sometimes also involved with the planning of a project and works with multiple teams within TasWater. In some cases projects can also change project managers depending on the stages. One project manager who specialises in planning may handle that stage of the project before handing it over to Gerard once it reaches the construction stage.

One of Gerard’s favourite projects to date was the upgrade to Queenstown’s water supply, Conglomerate Dam, which reached practical completion in July 2018. The project involved work on the dam wall which is approximately 16 metres in height and the berm structure extending on the downstream slopes to approximately 32 metres in height. The project also included significant works to the dam spillway, modifications to the water supply outlet and improvements to the remote monitoring systems so any sudden changes in the dam will trigger safety alarms in TasWater’s Operations Control Centre. Gerard said the project was challenging and complex, there were a lot of unknowns but he enjoyed working through them with everyone involved including a number of local West Coast contractors.

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(Gerard pictured above with colleagues on site at Conglomerate Dam)