2023 First Newsletter

Welcome to a new Monkeytoe


That’s right. Monkeytoe is back for 2023 – with a new style, a new cadence, and a new take on consultancy, design, manufacture and install. And we’re still exceeding expectations, pushing boundaries, and delivering exceptional Aluminium structures across the country.

We are always looking for ways to innovate and improve our access solutions. We want to make the impossible possible – to help you access the inaccessible, to explore spaces that were previously closed off, and to contribute to designs with cutting-edge and creative engineering. We’ve come a long way since we first started up shop in 2006 – but it’s the future that’s really got us excited.

So welcome to the first of our new quarterly updates, replacing the old monthly newsletters. Going ahead, you can expect to see industry-leading thinking from the people who make Monkeytoe possible, as well as thought-provoking conversations with our consultants and engineers, testimonials and case studies, and more.

The damage and hurt from Gabrielle over the summer has had us thinking about how the industry will design for the century to come. We’re seeing a lot more talk about holistic design and engineering; while budget and time requirements still remain at the forefront of new projects, developers are now also setting KPIs around social and sustainable outcomes, empowerment and environmental accountability, and creating solutions that offer socially equitable outcomes. We look forward to seeking out more collaboration and strategic relationships, bringing in specialists earlier and with more variety, and pursuing greater diversity in our projects. Perhaps now’s the time to start thinking about how your next project will look long-term.

In this quarterly newsletter, Bertus Smit and Ian McMillan will contribute their fields of expertise and what it means to get a project right. (By coincidence, both came from South Africa, both head up Auckland teams, and both have a thing for H&S). We’ll also took a closer look at a recent change to the Auckland central landscape with Carlaw Park’s reinvigoration, and touch base with Project Kelly.


There’s a lot to think about going forward – and we’re glad you’re on the journey with us.



Carlaw Park

Transformed into Student Accommodation.

If you were in Parnell before 2002 and liked your rugby league, then you probably attended an event at the long-admired Carlaw Park. Built over a century ago, it hosted countless sporting events including the 1928 England tour (when New Zealand sent them packing with a score of 17-13).

But after falling into disuse, the Auckland Rugby League agreed to lease the land for a retirement property in 2007 – then it was considered for rebuilding ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. In recent years, Carlaw Park became a carpark – and finally, a Quest Apartments hotel building, and the University of Auckland’s largest student accommodation Carlaw Park Student Village.

The Carlaw Park Student Village is the University of Auckland’s largest purpose-built, self-catered student accommodation for new and returning undergraduate and postgraduate students. Across two blocks – named Stanley and Nicholls – the village is able to handle 1,600 students, and includes three to five-bed apartments, and limited two-bedroom apartments for families with young children.

Being an upscale apartment complex in a prominent location adjacent to Auckland Domain, the city’s oldest park, the developers understood the need for discreet platforming and access solutions. A significant complex with a large open courtyard in the middle means that anything on the roof is likely to be visible, no matter where you are.

Monkeytoe started with the design of four platforms – two on opposing corners of the mirrored buildings – as well as walkways connecting these to the roof access hatches. We also developed ladders for safe access internally, working with the project developers at an early enough stage that we could incorporate our designs and save them time and hassle later.

The developers had originally requested mesh or perforated screens to hide the roof platforms. After consultation with our designers, they agreed that our louvre screens would be more suitable, since

the louvres could be specifically designed to hide the platforms from below – something that would make the final product much more attractive at street level.

The project came to the Monkeytoe team in early 2021, while it was emerging from the ground, and we closely monitored its development as the months progressed (and work stopped and started with a handful of Covid lockdowns in the mix). During this time, communication was key – we needed to ensure that the construction matched the design of both the project developers and Monkeytoe’s engineers, and that deadlines were met. When it came time for installation, the accessways, platforms and louvres were put in place in a matter of days, finishing late in 2022.


Feedback from our client was excellent, highlighting how we worked with the team and how the job was ‘cleaner and quicker than normal’ – and that they’d love to see us on the next project.






Northern Projects Team Manager – Ian McMillan on Safety at Monkeytoe

As the Northern Projects Team Manager of Monkeytoe, Ian McMillan’s role is to ensure that all our projects are delivered on time, on budget, and to the highest possible standards – which often means going above and beyond expectations. While the role is varied, one thing that remains Ian’s top priority is health and safety.

As the Auckland Manager for Monkeytoe, I oversee the installation projects in the upper North Island region, and support the project managers (PMs) who run them. That generally means making sure that projects are running smoothly, and that our clients are experiencing top quality work. But the role also extends to sourcing training and support for the teams, investigating any non-conformances, and ensuring that health and safety guidelines are being followed on site. I also communicate with other departments and offices so that we can continue to improve our operations.

At Monkeytoe, we place a stronger emphasis on H&S than most others in the industry, and we generally go over and above what’s expected. We’ve talked about it on our website, and even created resources for things like fire stairs for those who need to consider this early one. Understandably, I take H&S very seriously, but that’s partly because I’ve seen the other side of it. I come from South Africa, where H&S wasn’t really a priority. I used to work on construction sites where I had to stand 10 stories up without a harness and take a measurement off the edge. It was very dangerous and risky. In New Zealand, however, we have a different mindset – and it’s definitely for the better.

You should always be looking for risks, and doing what you can to avoid incidents happening. You should be thinking about your buddies all the time on site, and how you don’t want to be the one responsible for someone not going home. To me, H&S means that someone gets to see their family at the end of the day.


H&S at Monkeytoe starts with in-house training

No one plans to have an accident, but they happen – so we do what we can to make sure that the chance of something unplanned is as low as we can get it. Every Thursday, my installers, PMs and teams working on site have a toolbox meeting, where we address any incidents, and discuss new procedures. We also actively evaluate the documents we use on site, such as the Safe Working Methodology Statement (SWMS), which covers how we work at height, use static lines, and use personal protective equipment (PPE).

To access a site, we need certain documents, including the Site Specific Safety Plan (SSSP), which could be a 100-plus-page document. Our installers have to read that, and fill out a task analysis form that shows they fully understand the site and its risks. For example, if they need to work on the edge of a building, they have to work in full restraint gear and document when it’s needed. They also have to do daily site-checking, because the environment changes quickly. All that gets dialled up on Thursday, and we take examples of what has been done.

But our approach to health and safety doesn’t just appear in our training. We also design our work to exceed expectations. For example, the New Zealand building codes say that you can have a ladder that’s up to 9m long without needing to add a level or break; the Australian standard says it’s just 6m. And that can be five to seven thousand dollars difference in price between the two products. But a 9m climb on a ladder is much, much harder than a 6m climb (especially when you have tools) – and the more tired you are, the more likely you are to have an accident. We call out those risks, and anyone who deals with compliance, or has read our ebook on hurdles will know that. In the end, we want to encourage our clients to think about the health and safety of their end users too, and make their decisions based on that.

A culture of safety

What I really value is that our teams (and our clients) appreciate that we can have these kinds of open, honest and sometimes difficult conversations about best practices on site or on a project, and get the best outcome for everyone involved. We work with PMs, cost consultants and engineers at the early stages – ensuring that Monkeytoe products are designed to get the best possible outcome for the end users and reduce long term costs. We often work with the same people to make sure that working on site is going to get the best possible H&S results for our teams.

We’re all on the same page, fighting the same fight. The culture is a massive point for me. I have been in management in several companies, but also diversified in sales and management. And while I’m not often on the front line, I still feel connected to the projects.

We strive to do everything right: project management, design and manufacture, organisation, installation, quality control, engineering. And beyond just meeting expectations, we push to deliver projects quicker, on budget, and without any hiccups. That’s what makes a happy company and a happy customer. The important thing is that Monkeytoe sets itself above other companies by having a good culture that embraces change. We are allowed to think out of the box and improve things – including ourselves along the way.




Bertus Smit on Life as one of Monkeytoe’s Project Manager for Auckland


Bertus Smit worked as a chef for 11 years, owned his own catering company, and is one of the busiest people in project management today. After packing his bags and coming to Aotearoa New Zealand in 2013, Bertus got into height safety, then project management, and finally, joined the Monkeytoe team. Four years later, Bertus is leading our Auckland region projects to dizzying heights. So what is it that he thinks you should know about project management today?

One important thing about a company like Monkeytoe is that our project managers need to have an understanding of how things connect, and where they’re being used. If you don’t know how a stair goes to a roof or how it gets installed, then you’re going to hit a lot of roadblocks leading up to that point. Back in South Africa, my father was a fitter and turner, and he put a lot of effort into raising us with that DIY attitude. So we learned a lot about renovations, fixing cars, and doing things by hand. I studied at a technical school, where I learned about design alongside mathematics and sciences, so these kinds of things come easily to me.


On speed…

Today, everything has to be faster, and better. The sooner a job is completed, the sooner it can be tenanted or occupied. But project managers also have to think three-plus years in advance, and consider multiple running projects at the same time. Sometimes, you have to put on the engineering and designer hats so that you can make each process work more efficiently.


On multitasking…

I often say that our clients are lucky that their project is just one building! As a designer, you ‘live’ in that building for two to three years, or until it’s done. That project is your life. Our PMs don’t have that. Like being a chef, you’ve got to multitask. I’ve got five install teams running at any one time – all who’ll have their own questions on the day – and five projects that you need to think about that week. In an ideal world, you’d be able to finish one project before moving on to the next, but being a PM means working on a lot of projects at once – each with their own visions and requirements. And because we’re coordinating projects so far in advance, we need to be able to consider how to best make use of the space with modern materials. It’s a lot of balls to juggle sometimes – and I’ve got six kids too, so you can imagine what that takes!


On the rate of technological change, and how much can be planned in advance…

A number of our clients recently have started to build and make decisions using complex 3D models. But there are still limitations as to how much can be done in the virtual space and how much can only really happen once you pick up the tools.

Technology is at the point where anyone can design a building in minute detail, put themselves ‘in the room’, and move about it, while also simulating what it’ll be like at different times of day and weather conditions. All this is fantastic from an architect’s perspective, and for our clients, since they can look for clashes and problems that you might not have considered until the walls actually went up.

For some larger companies, there are whole teams dedicated to building integrated models, and it’s easy to understand why. Planning means preparation, and preparation means better budgeting and a better final product. If you can eliminate as many variables as possible, the path to completion will be that much clearer.

But it always changes. Anyone who’s worked on a building site or designed a project knows this. A drainage hole might have to move, and now the kitchen layout has to be updated. Or a new product becomes available that can do the job better, and you need to open up space to fit it in. There’s only so much you can plan in advance.

Recently, I was asked about a stair project for a building that’s set to finish in a couple years. I was told the building design was “pretty accurate”, and asked to have a staircase made up. But our stairs have got a 10mm tolerance in a five-storey design; there’s no “pretty accurate” in engineering. Instead, we were able to talk about what we could integrate, and how aluminium would outperform steel, reduce the footprint of the staircase, and help make more use of their space.


On everything better…

Aotearoa New Zealand is seeing a lot of change. We’re thinking more globally, and doing more big projects for international clients. Microsoft is putting up three new datacentres locally, and that means we have to consider the standards that they want for their buildings – not just our building codes – and it’s five times more complex than anything our country has seen. The classic “she’ll be right” attitude will need to evolve if our industry is going to meet these new demands. That’s why it’s so important right now to be thinking ahead of the curve to meet tomorrow’s standards.

A lot has changed since I joined Monkeytoe officially in 2019. We’ve seen tech change, a bigger uptake of digital tools, and more interest around material efficiency. But one thing that’s been constant, especially for me, has been the ‘everything better’ approach.

Every day, I want to make sure that’s an idea that I’m living, and doing better today than I did yesterday. So that means communicating better, or getting more done, or reducing stresses, or learning how to handle a situation better. What’s great is that I can see that in my teams too, and everything flows on to the end user – the people who are going to be using our platforms and accessways, or making use of spaces that have XBEAMs, for years to come. They’re always in my mind.




Action with Project Kelly

The Aotearoa New Zealand film industry produces some world-class content, so we knew our part had to deliver in a way that would live up to international standards.

We recently wrapped works at Project Kelly, two massive film studios in Auckland that we delivered with Haydn & Rollett. This project was developed by Tātaki Auckland Unlimited and was co-funded by Government and Auckland Council, and received funding from the Government’s Covid Infrastructure Covid Recovery Fund.

Huge air conditioning platforms, stairs, and 800m of latticework trusses all put special demands on a film space. Not only did these units have to be functional, but they also had to be isolated and prevented from transmitting vibration and noise into the studio spaces.

Check out this feedback from Robert Hodgkinson at Haydn & Rollet, where he shares his experience working with Monkeytoe, the challenges of building an international studio, and how the final cut was delivered.




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