Articles | People

Five Minutes with Hannah Orchard

Tuesday, 2 November 2021
By Karen Richter

Ever since she was 13, Hannah Orchard has dreamed of becoming a chemical and process engineer. Now she’s doing just that, blazing a trail in one of New Zealand’s most significant construction projects – Winstone Wallboards’ new GIB® plasterboard manufacturing and distribution facility in Tauriko.


What inspired your career?
Throughout school I was always into maths and science; I loved chemistry and also enjoyed figuring out how things work. A family friend was working as a chemical and process engineer at Carter Holt Harvey - Kinleith and she told me about her job. It sounded cool so I decided that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up.


How did you get started?
I did a degree in chemical and process engineering at Canterbury University and picked up some casual work at Winstone Wallboards throughout my studies. That led to a permanent role as a continuous process improvement engineer based in Christchurch. I was there for five years before transferring to Auckland to be a project engineer for the design phase of Tauriko. This year in May I moved to Tauranga for the construction phase. It’s been awesome to have worked for Winstone Wallboards in three different cities!


What’s happening at the plant now?
We’re starting to put the building up – we’re finally seeing what we’ve spent the last two years nailing down, go up in real life. This week the first piece of machinery, the apron feeder, will be installed. As engineers, seeing the machines that are going to make the board - rather than just the buildings - is hugely exciting.


What’s the best part of the job?
Driving around and seeing board which I’ve had a hand in engineering and creating is pretty cool! Construction is everywhere and it’s a good feeling to know I’ve contributed to it in some way. Being involved in the new plant is a fantastic opportunity – it’s not every day you get to work on a project of this scale.


Any challenges?
Trying to capture everything! It’s such a large site and we need to be across all aspects of it. COVID has also had an impact, with supply delays out of Auckland, and some staff unable to work due to the Waikato lockdown. Also, the plant machinery manufacturer Gyptech is based in Canada - they would have been over here more frequently had we not been in the midst of a global pandemic.


Tell us something you’ve learnt recently.
There’s a big difference between construction tolerances and engineering tolerances – it’s a matter of working between them and trying to find a happy medium.


The biggest highlight?
Going from a small scale A3 piece of paper to a 14-hectare manufacturing facility and being able to be here and watch it all unfold. The most exciting day of all will be the day we push the start button and actually begin making the board.