Exciting opportunities for civil engineers in New Zealand

When Scottish engineer Ewan Ross arrived in New Zealand in 2010, he headed straight for the beach.
Ewan Ross and family

After 10 days in Raglan, which is a world-class surfing destination on the west coast of the North Island, Ewan decided he wanted to live there.

It took him a while, but eventually Ewan made that decision into a reality. 

In between, he has played a part in the rebuild of Christchurch after its 2011 earthquake, worked on irrigation and power projects throughout the South Island, assisted on industrial and commercial developments, and helped make New Zealand’s roading network safer and more resilient.

“I now have a CV that covers projects across just about every sector,” says Ewan.

“The most important thing for me has been having so many opportunities to develop my knowledge. The diversity of New Zealand’s terrain and environments makes working here really interesting and exciting.”

A new adventure

Surfing was a big part of the attraction in coming to New Zealand for Ewan, who was struggling to find engineering work in the UK after the global financial crisis. 

He accepted a job offer in Auckland after attending an immigration fair. “I wasn’t sure how long I’d stay in New Zealand, but I thought coming here would be a bit of an adventure,” he says.

Ewan’s employer supported him to gain a Master of Engineering Studies in Geotechnical Engineering at the University of Auckland while he was working.

In 2012, Ewan joined the engineering and professional service company Beca and moved to Christchurch to help with the earthquake rebuild.

“As an engineer, it seemed like an exciting opportunity to learn about earthquake recovery and resilience first-hand,” he says.

His roles in Christchurch involved assessing damage in residential properties, repairing and replacing underground infrastructure, redeveloping a hospital, and designing commercial and industrial buildings.

It was easy to make friends in Christchurch because of the influx of engineers – many from the UK – working on the rebuild.

Varied choice of projects

Ewan Ross - Civil engineer

"Challenges for engineers working on New Zealand geotechnical projects," says Ewan, "include the high rainfall, steep terrain and earthquakes." He's found the work tends to be more varied than back in the UK.

While many of New Zealand’s major infrastructure projects are in Auckland, Beca civil engineers living in other areas often have opportunities to work on Auckland projects as well as major projects in their region.

Ewan says he particularly enjoys working on smaller projects because they give him more opportunities to stay involved with a project from beginning to end. “That can be very satisfying,” he says.

He’s now working on a major alliance project led from Hamilton to improve the safety and resilience of New Zealand’s state highway network.

Laid-back lifestyle

Ewan lives in Raglan but works in Hamilton, which is 50 minutes away. Moving to Raglan has been a great lifestyle choice for Ewan and his partner, Jennifer Miller, who is also a Scot. As well as surfing, they ski, snowboard, mountain bike and explore the outdoors with their Kiwi kids, Lewis, three, and baby Ailsa.

“We really enjoy living here, and when we started thinking about children we realised we wanted to have them in New Zealand. It’s a good place to have a family – kids have the freedom to develop their life skills here,” says Ewan.

His advice to other overseas-trained engineers seeking a career change is to consider a move to New Zealand.

“If you want an adventure, give New Zealand a try. There are great opportunities here for engineers and the laid-back lifestyle you can have is awesome.”

Ewan Ross surfing

Interested in coming to New Zealand?

Sign up to receive relevant job opportunities from New Zealand employers and practical advice on how to make your move to New Zealand a reality.