Peter Lilley Takes the Helm at RILEY
11 January 2021
Developing our technical and leadership talent, making nimble the new normal and continuing to build business resilience are top priorities for new Managing Director Peter Lilley.
Peter has been working on the transition with outgoing MD Scott Vaughan and will now fully take the reins at Riley Consultants from the start of 2021.
The Year of Covid-19 has shone a laser-like focus on all three of Peter’s priorities and our ongoing efforts to tackle them.
Peter says RILEY has come through a difficult 2020 in good form, with 100 per cent of the 85 employees retained (bar resignations) and some new recruits welcomed. However, the pandemic has made it more challenging than ever to recruit out of the market to meet resourcing needs.
“Growing and retaining our own talent is key,” he says. “RILEY will be doubling down on sustained development of our people on the back of a sustained workload and a more nimble way of working.
“We’re committed to showing clear career pathways and we have a talent development framework in place, but Covid is speeding up our emphasis on this.”
RILEY To The Core
Like Scott, Peter (52) has strong RILEY bones and understands our people-centric focus and team-first approach. They both grew up with the company as young graduate engineers hired by visionary founder Peter Riley.
After building his reputation in water resource engineering on major dam projects, Peter Lilley moved to Trustpower in 2000. He held senior positions there, as well as being the key link in the Trustpower-Riley client relationship, before running his own consultancy from 2017.
Peter has also been an External Director on the RILEY Board since then and is a past Chairperson of the New Zealand Society on Large Dams.
Brett Black, himself a senior RILEY stalwart newly appointed as Board Chair, says the Board welcomes Peter’s appointment, along with other changes this year. Two new executive directors, Leah King and Steve Price, and two returning directors, Paul Rivett and Steve James, were voted to the board.
Our new Chair believes Peter is perfectly placed to lead the company at this next stage of its evolution.
“Peter has RILEY DNA and knows the crew, but having gone away and come back he also views RILEY through a different lens and adds external learning and context to the mix,” says Brett.
“Peter has a two-year horizon on the MD role and will help us transition to a more distributed model of leadership and bring on our existing talent to be organisation leaders.”
Brett also paid tribute to Scott Vaughan’s drive and dedication in 17 years running RILEY, firstly as General Manager from 2003 and then MD from 2008. Scott retained staff and steered the company through the Global Financial Crisis and the current uncertainty of Covid-19, along with spearheading RILEY's forensic engineering response to the Christchurch earthquakes.
“Scott stepped up and owned the responsibilities, leading us through significant events, challenges, growth and change,” says Brett.
“The structure and management systems he put in place will hold us in good stead, and he championed values for RILEY that he demonstrated himself every day.”
Having taken on a fresh challenge at RILEY, Scott will start 2021 in the newly created position of Business Operations Manager. To this, he will bring a focus on organisational performance, but also once again apply his considerable experience to more technical work and client delivery.
Fronting Up To Industry Reset
Peter Lilley says it’s crucial to have RILEY in the best shape to deal with the ongoing Covid response and post-pandemic step change in the engineering industry.
“There’s no doubt we’re seeing a reset in the industry, and returning to business as usual is not going to happen,” he explains.
“Engineering is inherently conservative and having to be nimble doesn’t necessarily come intuitively to our kind of technical service industry, so some organisations may seek to turn back the clock.
“We’re choosing instead to look to the positives coming out of uncertainty and the different opportunities. We’re looking at the market more closely, looking at where clients are responding, and then responding to match their needs.”
As a small multi-disciplinary consultancy, RILEY needs to be smart and strategic.
“We look to the value end of the spectrum, with a continued focus on quality and delivery. We’re an organisation that talented people are attracted to and want to be part of, not least because of the interesting and at times unusual jobs our clients have faith in us doing,” says Peter.
“We need to be confident in the level of work out there and our ability to do a good job and not get caught in a race for the bottom.”
Our new MD believes the work the company has done on itself will pay off.
“There’s no rule book in these times,” he says. “You test proposals against the fundamentals of your values, which we’ve done a lot of work around, and this process provides some certainty in times of stress. Our values guide us in making good decisions and managing changes for the future.”
Opportunities Home and Away
New Zealand’s focus on new infrastructure and Government spending plans in this area will provide opportunities, as will incremental upgrades of ageing infrastructure.
“With budget constraints in these times, councils and other organisations are having to make do with what they’ve got. And rehabilitation is right in RILEY’s sweet spot,” says Peter.
“Modifying and upgrading important infrastructure needs people with good technical design skills, but also the lateral thinking to build upgrades in the context of a live system. With our experience, we can do that, and we can teach it as part of our talent development.”
Peter says New Zealand technical expertise is well recognised internationally, and the ability we demonstrate to continue operating through stress events like Covid makes us a real option to service clients across the global stage.
“While geotechnical investigation is hard to do remotely, conceptual design and feasibility work is increasingly being done in this way.
“It’s also easier now to collaborate with other consultancies to form highly skilled teams that compete with the industry giants who have offices in every country. You’d still need one entity on the ground in question to do the legwork, but the others could be based elsewhere.
“If you’re stargazing at how organisations like RILEY could grow in the future, it might not be traditional growth in size and numbers. An interesting example could be RILEY acting as a hub and operating with many more associated entities on a project-by-project basis.”
Future Thinking Now
Future adaptability is a key engineering theme too, at a time when clients and society in general, are more aware of sustainability and climate-change implications.
“Because of the need to work on societal systems like water supply, flood protection and housing subdivisions, we’re ideally placed to be more proactive about these issues,” says Peter.
“They also very much factor into how we intend to grow and guide people at RILEY in using their skills to deliver to both client and society needs.
“We as technical experts shouldn’t be designing to resist climate change, for example. We’ve got to look more at resilience and adaptability, as many of these future challenges are dominated by uncertainty. It’s not up to us to dictate society’s desires around what that looks like, but we should be ensuring our design and solutions achieve what’s needed now while able to be modified in the future.”
Scott Vaughan - EngNZ Fellowship Award
We are pleased to acknowledge the achievement of Scott Vaughan, RILEY Managing Director, on being recognised by Engineering New Zealand (EngNZ) through its Fellowship programme for his contribution to the engineering profession.
Scott’s citation read: “Scott Vaughan is elected a Fellow of EngNZ for his engineering leadership and advancement of engineering practice. We especially recognise his contribution to geotechnical and forensic engineering. He has exhibited high levels of professionalism in his organisational and governance roles.”
RILEY now has three practicing and one retired EngNZ Fellows – a significant achievement for a company of its size.
RILEY Cleans-up Again
On a warm November day, 12 staff from the Auckland office, together with the skipper and an assistant, took part in a regular Waitemata Harbour clean-up.
On this trip the boat journeyed up the Tamaki River into the industrial area. In two hours, the volunteers picked up a mixture of illegally dumped and windblown rubbish, including four televisions numerous tyres, assorted lounge furniture, industry waste, plastic rubbish, and other detritus. It is a sad reality that every day is the same.
The volunteers were pleased to have the opportunity to undertake some community service, and after a morning’s hard work they expressed enthusiasm for joining together as a team outside the typical work environment.
Arthur Amputch – Inaugural winner
RILEY welcomes a new External Director
We are pleased to announce the appointment of Peter Lilley as External Director. Peter brings to RILEY more than 25 years’ of industry knowledge gained from his experience of both the power generation industry, where he undertook a variety of roles within Trustpower Generation including those of Strategy Manager and General Manager (acting), and as a respected consultant water resource engineer.
Much of Peter’s career to date has focused on water resource governance, efficiency, development, optimisation, safety, and performance. He has overseen many water resource projects from new developments to major infrastructure upgrades, and has co-ordinated project inputs across multiple disciplines, both technical and non-technical. A core area of expertise is the development and lifecycle management of multi-use assets that combine uses, such as hydro-electricity, irrigation, town water supply, stormwater, recreation, and commercial use. He has also had involvement with a large range of collaborative processes including resource consenting and the Land and Water Forum.
Peter is a past Chairperson of the New Zealand Society on Large Dams (NZSOLD) and currently represents New Zealand at the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) on their Public Safety committee.
Having someone of Peter’s calibre join us is a great company endorsement; his extensive knowledge and experience will enhance our consultancy as we continue to grow and develop.
True to form, the Last Try Wins
In a tight and exciting match, the Christchurch RILEY touch team, Last Try Wins, took out the opposition in the South Hagley Park mixed Wednesday night division. In the semi-final the team was up against Hogan Heroes (Fulton Hogan) who had recruited Black Ferns half-back Kendra Cocksedge to their side. It proved a thrilling game, with Leo (Leanne Sutherland) scoring the opener for Last Try Wins, and B Mac (Brendon Fisher), securing the win with a late second-half try. The following week, in the final against Smokin' Arrows (Arrow), the first half proved tight with Last Try Wins narrowly ahead on the scoreboard at half-time, before pulling away in the second half to take home the gold medal with a comfortable two try lead.
Rodney Coast Challenge
Three teams took part in this year's Rodney Coast Challenge. the course starts in Woodhill Forest with a 10km run, transitioning to a 30km road bike leg, followed by a 25km mountain bike section to Puhoi, and an 8km kayak and 100m run to the finishing line at Wenderholm. Despite continuous torrential rain and thunder and lightning all teams finished in very respectable times. The mixed team came first in their category, whilst the two all-male teams finished second and eighth.
Auckland Office Ski Trip
Poor ski conditions could not dampen enthusiasm for the annual RILEY ski trip. So, when the slopes closed, we took to the mountain bike trails to make the most of the weekend.