Bringing over 20 years of sector knowledge and experience with a vast array of disciplines, Mark Piorkowski has been appointed the new Australian flexible Paving Association (AfPA) Executive Director of Queensland and the North Territory. Roads & Infrastructure catches up with him to talk about the journey that led him to Australian flexible Paving Association (AfPA) and what he hopes to achieve.
Piorkowski is a jack of all trades, moving from engineering to environment, from planning to economics through to social and community engagement. He has spent time in the private and public sectors as well as in city, rural and regional councils, and it was this range of experiences which made him the right fit for this new role. So how did he find himself where he is today?
The Roads Alliance
“I started studying geography and urban planning in my undergraduate degree in Toronto,” says Piorkowski. “And from there I went from a regulatory space where I was checking on large municipal projects around the Canadian Province of Ontario to project planning and working in business cases for road and rail transport.”
From here his portfolio continues to rapidly expand as he moves from transport planning in the private sector to regional and rural infrastructure projects right through to working for national tier one firms across Sydney and Brisbane on arrival in Australia. Most recently he has held executive roles as a director in large regional local governments in Queensland and NSW.
One of Piorkowski’s milestone projects was during his time at the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ), and is one many from Queensland might recognise: The Roads Alliance.
Jointly administered by the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) alongside the commonwealth and council, the Roads Alliance has won the Roads Federation Award for Best Practice Program Management with this programme having resulted in nearly half a billion dollars in investments into the road network since its initial conception in 2002.
“What this program was, was really bringing together local government councils with the DTMR directors and regional directors to deliver on a set of objectives that were agreed by both the Local Association of Queensland and the DTMR,” explains Piorkowski.
For Piorkowski, it was really about bringing people from different spaces to the same table, to agree on a common objective, under common road infrastructure definitions which created shared funding priorities for the shared state and local government road network. These were defined under the programme as the “Roads of Regional Significance”.
“To be able to bring everyone to the table, we needed to have an understanding of what they wanted and how that could create common ground,” says Piorkowski.
With the Roads Alliance still playing a strong role in how the roads in Queensland are seen today, from the shared definition of the roads themselves within the network to agreed multi-jurisdictional assessments on road ratings, the initiative marks the rewards successful cooperation between local government and regional districts can bring.
Piorkowski’s time at LGAQ also saw him travelling the length and breadth of Queensland, developing his skills in the role of an advocate.
“With the Roads Alliance being state-wide, I have seven years of built-up knowledge of the geography and landscape of Queensland, and really a great appreciation of this state from top to bottom. And also, of the motels in every area,” adds Piorkowski laughing.
With many members from the AfPA and from organisations such as DTMR situated throughout the state, from Cairns to Brisbane, Piorkowski finds he can relate to them quickly thanks to this knowledge of the areas and the issues they might be facing.
And as a master of multi-disciplines who has travelled the state, Piorkowski holds the skill of storytelling to bring the people and the projects together.
“From my experience as a project manager, you have to be across various disciplines as what you’re doing is weaving them together and creating a story, like a narrative, around a project,” says Piorkowski. “You need to encourage people to proceed, and part of that is understanding the economics and the geography, for example, and even so far as the cost-benefit of project and an understanding what demand there is for [the project].”
According to Piorkowski, his career has taken him from general spaces to very specific work, such as his work on the ground travelling and communicating with 77 of the LGAQ members, and these skills have helped him understand members from both a strategic and tactical level.
“Being able to communicate what members want back into a narrative that is understood on a strategic federal or state level means you’ve also got to understand what the government is trying to achieve,” says Piorkowski. “It’s all linked together.”
Being able to act as the intermediary and bringing everyone together is a vehicle of change that Piorkowski understands well.
So how did Piorkowski find his way to AfPA?
“From my work in regional areas, I actually had increased engagement with the AfPA members in contract work within my areas, and I become very familiar with the work they did,” says Piorkowski.
With Piorkowski being well versed in a range of operational matters from regional councils that oversaw road and bridge maintenance to management of a regional airport, Piorkowski has strong experience in what he describes as “the pointy end” of infrastructure design, planning and delivery.
“And I really know, from experience, how important the road network is in regional Australia,” says Piorkowski. “And I also understand the critical role AfPA members have in contributing to keeping them open and safe.”
From here, Piorkowski wants to utilise his storytelling, overview approach to bring AfPA to the table with other key decision-makers and governments to ensure they are a part of decisions that affect the industry.
“I saw an opportunity to join a strong organisation who have positively made a huge impact on the surfacing industry,” shares Piorkowski. “And I really look to strengthen this impact through proactive engagement across the issues and matters that count for every AfPA member.”
With Piorkowski’s career having taken him to all corners of the industry, he believes this is what he’ll draw on to bring positive impact.
“I consider it like I have a large toolkit so depending on what I need to do, I can draw from a lot of sources,” says Piorkowski. “And this is one of the key skills that I’ll bring to the AfPA.”
This article originally appeared in the June 2021 edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.
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