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Our history

“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Human footprints are all over the story of Riley. They represent the people who’ve shaped the company over 35-plus years and the shared values woven through our history.


Riley Consultants Ltd is a typical New Zealand success story – the little engineering company that could, founded by a larger-than-life Kiwi character.


Peter Riley had large-firm experience but wanted control of his destiny. In 1984 he set up on his own on Auckland’s North Shore. 


Nigel Fitch, our current Technical Director – Geotechnical, was one of two employees who arrived a year later. He didn’t mind his desk being a door laid across trestles; he was drawn by Peter’s innovation and indomitable spirit.

Being the new kids

From early success on Patea Dam, Riley soon had more than enough jobs on the books. We built a reputation as new kid on the block, challenging industry conventions about size, structure, and just who held big-project IP.


Peter had an instinct for getting the best out of people, meshing young engineers with diverse skills and personalities into a strong team. Those future Riley influencers appreciated the flat management structure and plenty of client contact.


Known as Rockhound Riley, Peter survived many a leap into the trenches, geological hammer in hand. Once it earned him a full toss from the arm of a digger and cost him a beer for fraying the driver’s nerves.


Passion and enthusiasm created a camaraderie we still enjoy today, albeit with more health and safety oversight!

We grew from 13 staff in 1997 to more than 95 today, with just over 30% of employees now shareholders.


Riding the rollercoaster


Around the late 1980s, landslide-stabilising work on the Clyde Hydro Dam dominated the job sheet, at its peak providing 70% of turnover. Riley’s resilience after the 1991 stock market crash meant we retained staff when others were laying off.


Boom times were around the corner in the mid-1990s. Peter knew expansion was needed after having to turn down 13 jobs one Monday.

He took a progressive step for the next generation, turning Riley into a limited liability company. We grew from 13 staff in 1997 to more than 95 today, with just over 30% of employees now shareholders.


Riley’s South Island presence began in 1999. With Trustpower buying up hydro stations, the Christchurch office transformed from a solo operation and Trustpower became Riley’s most significant client.


With Peter handing over the reins, Scott Vaughan was appointed Managing Director in 2008. He would guide us through the Global Financial Crisis, the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010/2011 and the COVID-19 onset in 2020.

The post-quake rebuild was a defining time for Riley, bringing the Auckland and Christchurch offices closer together for support. Geotech work dominated in the south for the next six years and staff numbers spiked at almost 30.


Coming back to the future


Riley is now a multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy. In recent years, we’ve focused on developing the team, future-proofing our systems, and expressing our purpose.


The company DNA features the best characteristics from the legacy of Peter and others, and fresh perspectives from today’s Riley people.


Our values will continue to underpin Riley’s changing stages and more human footprints will mark the future path. Appreciating their historical context brings a sense of whakapapa – knowing who we are and where we’ve come from.

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