Q&A Sep 9, 2021

Q&A: Talking with Neil Blazey, Principal Water & Environment Consultant

Neil Blazey shares insights on his role at Jacobs, what sparked his interest in water and his experiences volunteering at two non-Governmental Organizations in Vanuatu.

Neil Blazey

At Jacobs, we think differently about the future because today’s challenges demand innovative approaches to deliver a more connected, sustainable world. With a fierce commitment to the spaces we inhabit, both globally and environmentally, we’re continually reinvigorating our efforts to be responsible stewards of the natural world, as we contribute forward-thinking sustainable solutions for our clients.

We’re getting to know members of our water team who are solving the world’s most pressing challenges in water resilience and sustainability to shape the water industry of tomorrow.

Principal Water & Environment Consultant Neil Blazey shares insights on his role at Jacobs, what sparked his interest in water and his experiences volunteering at two non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Vanuatu. Read more in this Jacobs.com interview.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at Jacobs.

I’m a strategic thinker and problem solver, supporting a wide range of projects and clients across different sectors. I have recently returned to New Zealand (NZ) having spent five years at Jacobs in the United Kingdom.

I’m often found bringing together inputs across technical disciplines and stakeholders to make clear and informed decisions to deliver water infrastructure projects. I’ve led the development of innovative tools and processes to inform option appraisal and business cases for some of the biggest projects in the U.K.

In recent years I’ve been helping our clients tackle the challenges of infrastructure funding. I’ve developed funding strategies and supported partnership working with local authorities, major infrastructure and utility providers, private businesses and government departments.

What sparked your interest in a career in water/engineering?

When I was 16, I completed a three-week work placement for the environmental department of Milan City Council in Italy. It was a wonderful opportunity and opened my eyes to the wide variety of projects and programs they were responsible for delivering. This was hugely influential in my decision to study geography and complete my master’s degree in environmental management at Kings College London.

My first ever project as a graduate involved developing economic models to support investment decisions for London’s flood defenses. It was a huge thrill to realize that my work would have a significant role in shaping the outcomes for one of the world’s major cities. I still get this feeling on major projects that I support to this day.

What’s your favorite part of your role?

I love that I can work across Jacobs’ teams around the globe to bring together the best of our visionaries, thinkers and doers to solve our clients’ and our communities’ biggest challenges. It’s a great feeling to create new solutions – but it can be even better when you quickly connect and learn from someone who is going through a similar process elsewhere.

Tell us about an exciting project you have worked on or are working on.

I spent two incredible years volunteering for NGOs in Vanuatu. I was able to support communities to identify and prioritize their development needs with my focus being to ensure that natural hazard and climate change adaptation was part of the decision making process. Vanuatu has many development challenges, with over 80 islands,130 languages and many local cultural identities. I loved the diversity of this experience – working with vibrant local communities and passionate professionals from across the globe.

What are some of the key considerations that will help drive a more resilient and sustainable Three Waters sector in NZ?

I believe that much can be achieved in the planning phase of our projects and programs to support more resilient communities and help achieve our shared sustainability outcomes. Adaptive planning with integrated delivery and systems thinking will help address the enormous challenges of climate change and shifting demographics.

Funding challenges will need to be met with new ideas, innovative funding models and sustained partnerships to help prioritize needs and drive efficiencies.

What excites you about the future of water in NZ?

The changes to water management in NZ present a huge opportunity to improve our planning and delivery of infrastructure and improve our natural environment. The public reaction and recognition to water quality challenges shows the value placed on our great environmental assets. This support should help drive long-term sustainable decision making to maximize our natural capital.

Jacobs’ ability to drive innovation using tools, data analytics, planning and excellent project design can support our clients to achieve their value outcomes. It’s exciting to think that we can make a real difference.

Neil Blazey with family by lake

If you aren’t in the office, what would we most likely find you doing?

I have two girls – a four year old and a one year old – and when I’m not in the office, they are always keeping me busy. They were both born in the U.K. and we have only recently moved to New Zealand, so I’m looking forward to helping them exploring Auckland and the rest of the country. I love attending live sporting events – cricket, football, rugby, netball, beach volleyball – I’ll watch anything.

What do you enjoy most about being part of Jacobs?

Jacobs has shown a real commitment to support its staff to grow, diversify and move. Being able to transfer between the U.K. and New Zealand has been a huge opportunity for me and my family. Beyond that I love working with really talented people on some of the most visible and important projects in the world.

Join #OurJacobs team

What drives you drives us as we work to build a better world – together. At Jacobs, every day is an opportunity to make the world better, more connected, more sustainable.

We’re always looking for dynamic and engaged people to join our team. Bring your passion, your ingenuity and your vision. Let’s see the impact we can create, together.